Alliance Activities : Publications : Smart Cards and Biometrics in Healthcare Identity Applications

Smart Cards and Biometrics in Healthcare Identity Applications

Publication Date: May 2012

Both smart cards and biometrics are used in identity management systems to verify individuals’ identities. Biometrics alone, smart cards alone, and a combination of smart cards with biometrics are options for healthcare organizations moving to stronger, electronic identity authentication of patients and providers.

This white paper was developed by the Smart Card Alliance Healthcare Council to:

Healthcare organizations considering different approaches for verifying patient and healthcare provider identity must look at the privacy, security, usability and performance implications of the different options. Smart health ID cards–either alone or combined with biometrics–provide a privacy-sensitive, secure solution, and also offer additional features and functions that can provide significant benefits to healthcare providers when compared to a biometrics-only solution.

Biometrics-only solutions are not ideal for patient health ID cards. A smart health ID card with a photo provides a solution that patients are familiar with and will readily accept. In addition, the smart health ID card promotes the healthcare organization brand, can support a wide variety of applications that add value, and can be interoperable and usable among disparate groups.

Either a smart provider ID card or a smart provider ID card with a biometric can provide healthcare organizations with the features needed to authenticate provider identities and offer better performance than a biometrics-only solution. Providers need an identity authentication solution that can be used at multiple facilities and in emergency situations. Smart health ID cards are built on standards, can be interoperable across multiple locations, and can be used with portable readers in emergency response situations. For multi-factor authentication, a smart ID card with a personal identification number can be significantly more cost-effective for a healthcare organization than a biometric solution.

Combining smart cards and biometrics can provide a full-feature solution for healthcare provider identity authentication. By storing the biometric and performing the biometric match on the smart ID card, the privacy and security of biometric authentication are enhanced and system performance is improved, with local, offline identity authentication.

Only identity verification solutions based on smart card technology can provide identity assurance and authentication while increasing privacy and security. Smart cards also bring operational efficiencies to the healthcare system that reduce costs, reduce fraud, and increase patient satisfaction. As electronic health records (EHRs) and personal health records (PHRs) move to the mainstream, smart health ID cards can be used as a two-factor authentication mechanism into a provider or insurer web portal. Smart health ID cards protect patient privacy and security when accessing online records and support the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), which identifies consumer access to online electronic health records as warranting two-factor authentication.

Smart card technology is used globally for secure identity, access and payment applications. As a standards-based technology, smart card solutions for patient and provider identity management are deployed around the world and are available from numerous vendors. Smart card technology provides a strong foundation for health ID cards, enabling improvement in healthcare processes and in patient and provider identity verification, while securing information and protecting privacy.

About the White Paper

This white paper was developed by the Smart Card Alliance Healthcare Council to provide an overview of smart card and biometric technologies, discuss the key considerations for selecting biometric and smart card technology for identity verification, and describe the benefits of combining smart cards and biometrics for identity applications.

Smart Card Alliance Healthcare Council members involved in the development of this white paper included: ABnote Group; Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC); Datacard Group; Gemalto; LifeMed ID, Inc.; Oberthur Technologies; OTI America; Watchdata Technologies USA; XTec, Inc.

About the Health and Human Services Council

The Smart Card Alliance Health & Human Services Council brings together human services organizations, payers, healthcare providers, and technologists to promote the adoption of smart cards in U.S. health and human services organizations and within the national health IT infrastructure. The Health & Human Services Council provides a forum where all stakeholders can collaborate to educate the market on the how smart cards can be used and to work on issues inhibiting the industry.