Your New Biometric Password May Be Your Veins

Biometrics has been discussed for years as the answer to our security concerns and password woes. The implementation of these advanced authentication methods has been slower than expected in most industries. Most of us are still struggling to manage passwords and the data breaches we hear about regularly. On a recent visit to the doctor I got a taste of a new biometric authentication process in person in the form of vein analytic biometrics.

Vein scanning biometric systems use infrared light waves to analyze the structure of an individual's veins in their hand. In this case, it is linked to a patient profile that contains their relevant information from insurance to emergency contacts. The scan provides immediate access to a patient's medical records without divulging sensitive information such as social security number and birthdate on subsequent visits, consequently helping to stop identity thieves. The technology was being used to register patients for office visits and testing. Furthermore, vein biometric scanning is not transferable and can provide a positive identity for a patient who might be unconscious or unable to respond.

Imprivata, a Massachusetts-based company, has developed the vein biometric system for use in healthcare settings to enable identification of the patient at any time in their life. Vein biometric scans do not change with age or other life changes, allowing patients to be rapidly identified without compromising their personal data. Imprivata has made its technology available for use on desktops, at patient kiosks, and other technology locations in use at hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices. The technology also eliminates some of the stigma some patients associate with fingerprints that many see as more of a law enforcement technique. Fujitsu, Hitachi, and M2Sys are also marketing vein biometric technology across many industries and markets.

Research Markets and Services predicts that the vein biometrics market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22% from 2016 to 2020. The firm predicts that palm vein recognition will be used both as a single authentication and in dual authentication scenarios in a broad range of industries from utilities, government, and financial services as a fraud deterrent.

On my particular visit, the vein scanning didn't seem to expedite my family member's trip to get tests performed because there was a setup process to create the record and then the scan. Once the record is created the subsequent visits should be more seamless and expeditious. Additionally, I noticed that the scanners were not yet prevalent in all offices in the building.

Like other biometric identification systems, if the technology is fully utilized and integrated across all platforms, and all platforms are integrated with each other, the potential is incredible for medical professionals and patients. Patients visiting multiple doctors would no longer need to carry copies of their records and prescriptions. If insurance companies participate, the necessity of the dreaded paper referral could disappear. The pharmacy industry could also benefit from the elimination of drug shopping and drug interactions since all patient records could be associated with the patient.

Like any new identification technology, privacy issues also abound. Patients may not want every physician viewing their medical history. Patients may also not want their information accessed if they are incapacitated for fear of confidentiality and misuse. There is also concern about storing the vein scans and using them for identification when ransomware and hacking could cripple systems that access patient records. There is no doubt the technology is innovative and can help make the medical profession more efficient, but it does come with risks.

Have you seen vein biometrics in use? Would you use it in a medical facility? Are you concerned about its security?

Maryam Donnelly, VP Marketing Services, Impact Marketing

Maryam Donnelly is Vice President of Marketing Services at Impact Marketing. She has spent more than 15 years leading marketing strategy, communications, product marketing, market research, and business development at Fortune 500 companies including Prudential Insurance, Automatic Data Processing, and Travelport (formerly Cendant). She has been a principal at Impact Marketing, a boutique marketing services company based in the New York metro area, for the past five years. Impact Marketing provides the spectrum of businesses with strategic marketing consulting services including marketing planning, marketing communications, marketing management, and analysis. Maryam holds a BBA and MBA in marketing from Hofstra University. She can be reached at

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Re: Improvement over fingerprints
  • 8/16/2017 4:44:04 PM

Lyndon that is the great part of this technology your vein structure typically does not ever change even with age. There are a limited number of medical procedures that may impact your vein structure but they are few and far between.

Re: Improvement over fingerprints
  • 8/16/2017 8:02:48 AM

It sounds like a cool idea. But as noted, untill there is universal use everywhere it may be it's time has not yet come. And who knows what new biometric may come along in the next few years that makes even the vein identification idea obsolete.

Re: This really gets under my skin
  • 8/15/2017 10:10:07 PM

@Terry    Too Funny or Maybe Not.   I was anticipating that Maryam's piece might be about this very topic ( I apologize Maryam your piece was eye opening as I had not heard of this before - kudos to you ! ) 

But I was all ready to go on a rant about how I would never succumb to implanting an ID under my skin.   I was all ready to go on and on about how Technology had become too intrusive and the abuses of such.   But Maryam your piece wasn't about that so I was going to have to save it for another day.

But then Terry provides a link and all is well (wrong) in the World once again.

Re: Improvement over fingerprints
  • 8/15/2017 10:02:26 PM

"....but I wonder how reliable it is as the individual ages."


@Lyndon_Henry  Great question to ponder.   I would hazard to guess it does become less reliable as one ages.  

An issue the field will have to wrestle with down the line, so I hope there is work being done now towards understanding this evitability.

Re: Improvement over fingerprints
  • 8/15/2017 9:55:39 PM

@Seth    I agree.  I do find this new technique useful in Health Care but I don't like it so much in other segments of society.  Maryam makes a good point that it is just a matter of time until this too is compromised but I do support taking this risk as it relates to more effective health care.

Re: Fascinating new set of fears
  • 8/15/2017 3:09:23 PM

@PC Great points about date of birth! I agree it's a useless form of ID to gain access. People in all positions that deal with computer systems should be concerned about security. It's becoming more important to be security minded than every before.

This really gets under my skin
  • 8/15/2017 1:23:40 PM

I don't know, Maryam... I'm a little squeamish where machines and my circulatory system are concerned. 

Can't you just chip me and be done with it? 

Re: Fascinating new set of fears
  • 8/15/2017 10:10:38 AM

@Michelle - In my view, it can only be an improvement. I've seen too many holes in the current system.

You don't know your code? Okay, what's your birthday? Okay, that's good enough.

My birthday is all over the place. Facebook probably sends a reminder to 100 people for most birthdays, so it's totally useless as a security method. The medical personnel are so lax because seem to think anyone who ever cares about someone's medical record has a legitimate interest. This may be 99% true, but it's not a security system.

Fascinating new set of fears
  • 8/14/2017 1:37:49 PM

This is a fascinating use of biometric data. I do have concerns about security. Hospital systems are known to run on older technologies or be slower to upgrade certain systems. I wonder if a more proactive approach to IT and security is considered before a system like this is put into place.

Re: Improvement over fingerprints
  • 8/14/2017 8:44:31 AM

As far as surgery or aging is concerned I suspect the system will work like any other password system.  There will be periodic updates to your password to ensure it still works for you.  If you have an annual medical appointment then resetting your password annually would just be part of that visit.  If you have a surgery that will affect your password then the hospital doing  the surgery can reset your password after you are healed up.  I suspect there will have to be some kind of backup in the event that you break both hands and have casts that the sensors can't see through.  

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