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SingHealth runs facial recognition pilots for visitor management at hospitals

Princeton Identity CEO pitches biometric hospital access control
SingHealth runs facial recognition pilots for visitor management at hospitals

Singapore’s largest hospital group SingHealth has introduced biometric entry systems at two of its hospitals in a joint project with Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS). Hospital visitors register online ahead of time and go through authentication via Singpass, the national digital ID.

The biometric gates will be deployed at Outram Community Hospital (OCH) and SingHealth Tower in Singapore. Individuals register online in a portal designed by SingHealth and IHiS, which then goes to Singpass for facial verification.

NEC Asia Pacific supplies the biometric technology for the new Facial Recognition Automated Visitor Management System (FRAVMS).

The website will then send the selfie to the hospital system for the matching at the entry gates. Should the match be positive (and the visitor’s temperature within range when accessing the facility), they will be granted access to the facility to visit patients. Full details are available on the IHiS site.

The new face biometric system also features mask detection and anti-spoofing capabilities for both video and photo-based presentation attacks based on depth sensing. A service counter is still available for those who are unable or unwilling to use the system, reports the Straits Times, though the biometric version is expected to save visitors around ten minutes each time compared to manual forms with their ID cards or app.

The trials at OCH and SingHealth Tower are scheduled to last six months, with the biometric technology planned to be rolled out to other SingHealth institutions in the future.

The company also said all visitor information is encrypted to industry standards and will be deleted upon the patient’s discharge.

Biometrics for healthcare visitor management on the rise

The new SingHealth deployments may indicate a broader trend regarding the deployment of biometric technologies for healthcare visitor management.

The suggestion comes from Bobby Varma, CEO of Princeton Identity, who recently wrote an article on the issue in Security Magazine.

The biometrics expert mentions a study sponsored by the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS), claiming that “open” or “unrestricted” hospital visitation is associated with a series of benefits for the industry.

These include higher patient and family satisfaction, improved outcomes, better communication with healthcare facilities, and reduced anxiety over treatment.

To this end, several healthcare facilities worldwide have deployed (or are planning to deploy) electronic visitor management systems.

Varma argues that while these systems tighten security, they do not necessarily improve the visitor experience, as they often translate to visitors waiting in lines. Losing access cards or badges is also a concern.

“Integrating biometrics with visitor management systems can improve the visitor experience by automating identity verification,” Varma writes.

“Rather than wait in line at a security desk, visitors head directly to a self-serve kiosk,” he adds. “At the kiosk, visitors also complete a short questionnaire on a touchscreen, get their temperature taken, and have their name cross-checked against a list of prohibited visitors.”

Regarding where to implement these technologies first, Varma claims specific departments are more suited than others. He suggests labor and delivery, detox, psychiatry, and memory impairment units, where security teams aim to keep certain patients in and unauthorized visitors out.

Varma also mentions maternity wards to register the biometrics of the mother and partner upon admission to simplify the partner’s ability to leave and return to the secure ward.

In terms of specific biometric technologies for healthcare, the executive says iris recognition offers some advantages over the others, as its readers are touchless and can identify subjects with masks on (more accurately so if used in conjunction with face biometrics).

Varma’s analysis comes months after new data from Transparency Market Research suggested the global healthcare market for biometrics may reach a value of $74.08 billion by 2028.

This post was updated at 11:10am Eastern on November 4, 2022, to note that NAC Asia Pacific is supplying the biometric technology to Singapore’s hospitals.

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