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Oregon Clinic Improves Access to Electronic Medical Records

Central Oregon Ear, Nose and Throat LLC is using an RFID system to save time and increase the security of files, by granting tagged personnel automatic access to electronic records as they approach a computer.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 29, 2011Security measures instituted at medical centers typically require that each staff member input an authorized user name and password in order to access a patient's electronic medical records (EMR), and then to close that file prior to stepping away from the computer. Central Oregon Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT), LLC., a clinic in Bend, Ore., has calculated that this process consumes many hours of time every year, as its team of six physicians and six nurses must input passwords before each task, wait for them to be accepted and then sign out again when finished.

Central Oregon ENT resolved this problem thanks to an RFID solution provided by Proxense. With the company's product, ProxAccess, RFID tags in ID badges are verified upon entering a room and coming within range of a reader, thereby triggering a computer to permit employees access to EMR files, with the EMR software application or just the file shutting down again as they leave that area. Twice daily, a fingerprint scan is required as well, in order to confirm that the individual using the system is indeed the person identified on the badge. The benefits, says Ryan Gallivan, an otolaryngologist at the clinic, are twofold: Employees save time otherwise spent logging in and out of PCs numerous times every day, and security is better ensured since the system automatically closes the EMR application when a user leaves the vicinity (something that could be forgotten in a busy clinic environment).

Ryan Gallivan
On any given day, Gallivan sees an average of 28 patients, and during each visit, he generally opens that patient's file two times or more. Based on his visitation schedule, he estimates that he signs in and out approximately 150 times per day. If each process takes five seconds, he says, that totals more than 48 hours of wasted time annually—time, he adds, that he'd rather spend attending to patients.

Proxense's automatic sign-on/-off system utilizes a combination of biometrics and RFID to authenticate an EMR system user before his or her fingers ever touch a keyboard, providing that individual with instant access to the files he or she is permitted to open.

With the system, says David Brown, Proxense's chief technology officer, each staff member wears a Proxense ID badge with a built-in active 2.4 GHz RFID tag that stores a unique ID number linked in the back-end ProxAccess software to details about that individual, such as his or her name, position and permitted file access. A fingerprint scanner that typically includes a built-in RFID reader (the entire device, which the company calls a BioSensor, measures 1.5 inches by 3 inches, and stands 0.5 inch tall) is plugged into each PC station via a USB cable. When an individual nears a computer, the reader captures the unique ID number encoded to that person's badge tag. At the beginning of each shift, the user must first place or swipe his or her forefinger on the fingerprint scanner for authentication. This prevents others from using that person's badge to access files permitted only to that particular badge holder. Once the user's fingerprint has been compared against the ID number of the badge and approved, the EMR file immediately opens, and that staff member can then get to work. As soon as the worker leaves the PC, the file closes, but upon returning, that person can reopen the file without a fingerprint scan, as long as the RFID badge is being worn.

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