SAFE Patient Identification System
Enrolling in SAFE
1. At registration, provide your basic information: first and last name, date of birth.
2. Show your photo ID.
3. Scan your palm. Two scans will be taken to ensure a clear image.
In October 2010, UW Health introduced a fast new way to identify you while improving patient safety and privacy.
Our SAFE (Secure, Accurate, Fast, Efficient) patient identification system scans the veins in the palm of your hand and matches the image to your electronic health record in seconds. Accurately identifying you ensures that your health care team has your unique record to review and document the care you receive during your visit.
Enrollment in SAFE
Enrollment in the SAFE system is simple. When you check in for your UW Health medical appointment, we'll ask you a few basic questions and request to see a photo ID. Then we'll scan your palm.
The entire process takes less than one minute. At subsequent visits, you'll simply state your date of birth, scan your palm and your identity will be confirmed within seconds.
How SAFE Works
The SAFE system uses harmless, near-infrared light to illuminate the vein pattern in your hand. The data from your vein pattern is stored for reference and used at future visits for fast, accurate patient identification.
Is SAFE safe?
Yes. Near-infrared light does not give off heat and is the type of light used in night vision goggles and in your TV's remote control device.
Why use the SAFE system?
Vein patterns in hands are unique to each person and are more accurate than a fingerprint or PIN as a means of personal identification.
How does palm scanning work?
Palm scanning uses harmless, near-infrared light to illuminate the vein pattern in your hand. The data from your vein pattern is stored for reference and used at future visits for fast, accurate patient identification.
Is near-infrared light safe to use?
Near-infrared light is the shortest wavelength of infrared light. It does not give off heat and is the type of infrared light used in devices such as night vision goggles and in your TV's remote control device.
Why is UW Health using palm scanning?
Providing safe patient care starts with accurate patient identification. Having your unique palm scan to identify you ensures we can pull up your unique electronic health record to review your history and document your care at each visit.
Why use veins as a way to identify me?
Vein patterns are unique to each person and are more accurate than a fingerprint or PIN as a means of personal identification.
Why aren't my name and birth date enough to identify me?
In an organization as large as UW Health, it's common to have multiple patients with the same name. Sometimes as many as a dozen may have the same first and last name, even the same middle initial and/or birth date. Patients with the same name may have clinic visits on the same day or be hospitalized during the same time period, increasing the risk of misidentification. In addition, your palm scan can identify you, even if you are unconscious or otherwise not able to communicate.
Will this slow down registration? How long will it take?
No. The initial enrollment process takes less than one minute. Scans at subsequent visits will allow us identify you faster and help improve patient safety.
What if I'm an identical twin?
Because the palm scanning device is so precise and the vein structure in our hands is so unique, even identical twins can be identified.
Does palm scanning help protect against identity theft?
Yes. Palm scanning provides a higher level of protection than personal identification numbers passwords, and fingerprints. It ensures you are identified as the right person while not allowing others to misrepresent themselves as you. Also, because the system scans the veins in your hand, this data cannot be tampered with or stolen.
Will children be scanned?
Yes. Children will be scanned beginning at age 5. Until age 15, they will be rescanned each year due to growth patterns within their hands.
Could my scan be stolen?
No. Your palm vein scan is converted to secure digital (numerical) code and is not stored as images in our system. As a result your scan cannot be stolen. The scan is not part of your medical record and no patient health information is stored within the palm scan data file.
When will the scan be used?
The scan file will be used only to identify patients during the clinic registration, hospital admission or emergency department registration processes.
Are other industries using palm scanning?
Yes. The banking industry in Japan uses palm scanning rather than Personal Identification Numbers for identity on ATM machines. Also, the organization that administers the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) has recently announced plans to implement palm scanning as part of its registration process.
What other health care organizations are using palm scanning?
Many health care organizations are using palm scanning, including BayCare Health System, Tampa Bay; Carolinas Healthcare System, Charlotte; ElCamino Hospital, Mountain View; Lehigh Valley Hospital, Allentown; Memorial Health Care, Miami; Orlando Health, Orlando; Sharp Healthcare, San Diego; University Health System, San Antonio; ValleyCare, Sunnyvale.
What forms of ID are acceptable to enroll?
Photo IDs, such as driver's license, employment ID, passport or other government ID will be accepted.
I've been a patient here for years. Why do I suddenly need to show ID?
It's just this one time as we enroll you in the system. In the future, we'll just scan your palm and ask for your date of birth.
What if I do not have a photo ID to enroll?
Patients without photo ID will be enrolled but we will ask that you bring photo ID to your next visit.
Will UW Health share my palm scan with other organizations?
No. Palm scan data will not be part of your medical record. If you request that your medical record be released, the palm scan data will not be released with the medical record.
Could my scan be shared with the legal system?
Palm vein scanning data could be released for law enforcement purposes only in special circumstances or pursuant to a court order. Since the data is stored digitally and not as an image, it would have very limited use to identify you outside the palm scanning system.
What if I refuse to be scanned?
You can still receive care at UW Health using traditional forms of identification. On subsequent visits, we will inquire again whether you would like to enroll in the palm vein scanning system. We recommend palm vein scanning because of the extra safety and security it provides.
What about hand hygiene? How often do you clean the scanners?
UW Health consulted the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about proper cleaning procedures for the scanners. The CDC advised us the scanners fall into the category of non-critical health care equipment and are similar to doorknobs and countertops in level of risk for infection. According to the CDC the scanners can be cleaned effectively with agents such as Purell hand sanitizer. Purell wipes and/or hand sanitizer will be available at each scanner for patients to use before or after scanning if they wish.
Will palm scanning be available at registration kiosks?
Yes. UW Health has piloted use of kiosks for self-registration at West Clinic. In the future, we plan to introduce kiosks at other locations, and all will be equipped with palm scanning capability for patients who are enrolled in the system. Those who are not yet enrolled will have to go to a staffed registration desk to be entered into the system. Then on subsequent visits, they will be able to use the kiosks.