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Integrating tech innovations with traditional medical IT assets

A blood pressure cuff is just one example of equipment a prototype biometric bracelet is said to be able to collect data from.

A blood pressure cuff is just one example of equipment a prototype biometric bracelet is said to be able to collect data from.

Researchers at Dartmouth College are developing a biometric bracelet that could potentially communicate with other devices – such as blood pressure cuffs and heart monitors – and then transmit that data directly into the appropriate patient's electronic medical record.

The bracelet measures bioimpedance – the unique way an individual's body reacts to weak electrical signals flowing through tissue – which can then be linked to a specific patient. Think of a fingerprint. Just like we have unique patterns that make up our fingerprints, the configuration of blood vessels, tissue and bone structure is unique in a person's wrist as well.

According to Dartmouth College computer scientist Cory Cornelius, who presented the research at a conference in Bellevue, Washington last week, test results have been promising. When dividing a pool of 46 volunteers into groups of two to five, the bracelet was able to correctly match patients with their electronic medical records 80 to 90 percent of the time. That number increased by a few percentage points when the bracelet was used in combination with a basic wrist circumference measurement, according to an article in Technology Review.

Not everyone is sold on this technology, however. In the same article, Ari Juels, chief scientist at RSA Laboratories in Cambridge, Massachusetts, expressed his reticence to embrace Cornelius' research.

"The false acceptance and false rejection rates are considerably weaker than required for any likely security scenario," he said. Juels added that fingerprint recognition has to allow less than one error in 1,000 cases, and that using bioimpedance still has hurdles to clear.

While the biometric bracelet is only in the prototype stage, it is an example of technological innovation and the implications for medical IT. Integration with digital records is a major focus, and EMR consultants are keeping their noses to the ground so they can help facilities with seamless implementation once new tech has been vetted.