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The new meatball surgery: Health care deploys face biometrics

The new meatball surgery: Health care deploys face biometrics

A facial recognition explainer for health care executives posted by law publisher JD Supra ends with one of the more straight-faced understatements in business today.

“We highly recommend engaging qualified and knowledgeable legal counsel to help analyze the risks” of deploying face biometrics.

It is a wry statement, as it was written by a quartet of authors who work for the law firm Troutman Pepper, which has an advanced technology practice and a health care specialty.

It also is true that the only decision more fraught than facial recognition for health care companies would be expanding into casino gambling.

The article briefly describes the technology and how it is used by organizations generally. Accuracy and bias issues are covered, too.

It also outlines how facial recognition pioneers in health care are using it, which amounts to enhanced security. Spotting known violent and criminal subjects is mentioned, as is replacing password protections for medical records.

The authors look at the near future and suggest companies could use face biometrics to streamline hospital admissions and stop fraudsters from trying to pass themselves off as others.

The meat of the matter is a list of five legalities — at least two of which uniquely affect health care firms — that curious executives must be prepared to navigate.

HIPAA is the biggest challenge. The federal medical privacy law arguably has forced more changes to the operation of health care companies than anything since hand-washing.

The idea that facial recognition systems are going to watch everything from parking garages to waiting rooms to records departments is ambitious.

The second federal law to be considered picks up there. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (helpfully shorted to EMTALA) requires emergency care providers to stabilize the conditions of people even if they have no money or insurance.

That makes one of facial recognition’s most attractive selling points tricky. The emergency treatment law prohibits care givers from denying care even to known fraudsters and past patients with a record of non-payment.

More generalized legal concerns include complying with state laws like Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act. Informed consent should be a familiar concept for care givers as should anti-discrimination regulations.

Engage qualified and knowledgeable legal counsel, indeed.

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