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Japan considers facial recognition to reduce health insurance fraud


Japan’s government is considering implementing biometric facial recognition checks to identify patients using the ‘My Number’ identification card for health insurance to reduce fraud and promote the use of online procedures for public services, according to The Japan Times.

My Number cards are used for tax and social security identification, and legislation was recently passed to allow them to be used as health insurance cards at hospitals starting in March, 2021. Concerns have been raised, however, about potential problems with hospital staff accepting My Number cards to identify patients, the Times reports, leading the government to consider a self-service identification process.

The Times also reports that the Japanese government believes residence certificate issuance and other public services could be simplified with facial recognition technology.

A team of Japanese scientists has developed an automated system based on facial recognition technology to predict when intensive care unit (ICU) patients are at high risk of unsafe behavior such as accidentally removing a breathing tube. The scientists presented the system, which has reported accuracy of 75 percent, at the annual meeting of the European Society of Anaesthesiology. They hope the automated risk detection tool could be used for continuous monitoring to mitigate staffing limitations.

“Using images we had taken of a patient’s face and eyes we were able to train computer systems to recognize high-risk arm movement”, says research leader Dr. Akane Sato of Yokohama City University Hospital. “We were surprised about the high degree of accuracy that we achieved, which shows that this new technology has the potential to be a useful tool for improving patient safety, and is the first step for a smart ICU which is planned in our hospital.”

The proof-of-concept consisted of cameras mounted above patient’s beds, with images processed by a machine learning algorithm to detect high-risk behavior.

Facial biometrics are being deployed at Japan’s airports and sporting venues ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

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