Author: JoAnne Colgan
Date: 11 January 1999
Smart Cards in Health Care
Some facts about Smart Cards
emergency medical cards
hospital admission cards
universal health cards
health passport cards
Smart Card use in the Healthcare Sector
Healthcare smart cards are widely used in some European Nations, however they have not taken hold in the United States. This is mainly due to America's fragmented health care system and concerns about cost.
Smart cards are offered with either 4000 bits of memory or 8000 bits and at present are expensive to use. Smart card readers require to be purchased and are attached to a pentium-class Windows based personal computer.
Software companies involved in the development of healthcare smart cards will supply software embedded in the PC to read information, display it and encode updated information on the card.
Savings resulting from fewer duplicate tests and better treatment outcomes may offset costs. Therefore the use of smart cards will facilitate the process of care by saving time.
Doctors will have access to a wider range of information about patients, which will help, implement preventive health measures.
Initial investigations by countries into the use of smart cards have looked at storing basic demographic data e.g. a list of allergies and current medications, past treatment history, disease history and doctors notes.
Development of Smart Card Systems
Many software companies are developing a smart card system that links patients, emergency response teams, general practitioners, hospitals and pharmacies. In the future it is anticipated smart card readers will be located at health care facilities, including hospitals, doctors surgeries, mobile emergency units (ambulances) and pharmacies.
Smart cards will expedite the delivery of medical care while reducing administrative time and costs because they provide accurate information, decrease the likelihood of harmful drug interactions, improve provider/patient relationship and provide a private and secure information storage system.
Healthcare Providers - Taking a Closer Look
Concerns about cost may stall the efforts to use the technology within the UK and the United States.
Some providers of health care believe a smart card with a computer chip that holds basic medical information will provide a database that patients can take with them.
Storing information using the smart card concept will eliminate errors and take a lot of guesswork out of the passage of information as patients move through the health care system.
Providers suggest that initially smart cards will have a niche application in health care but as the healthcare sector consolidates and the value of information on the card becomes more quantifiable they hope to see smart cards becoming the patient identification card.
Cedars-sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles is piloting smart cards on prenatal care patients.
European Union-sponsored project DIABCARD is a chip-card based medical information system for patients with chronic diseases, exemplified on diabetes mellitus which has been developed.http://www.slack/ It will promote shared care and offer controlled access to the patient's up-to-date record.
In the United States the Pentagon felt it made sense for troops to carry their own basic medical information in a plastic card around their neck. These are expected to be particularly useful in battle situations where medical personnel can use hand-held terminals to check key data quickly.http://www.physweekly.com/archive/ The British Government are also planning to use this particular type of card to record diagnosis and treatment information in battle.
Confidentiality and Smart Cards
Storing medical information in an electronic format raises concerns about patient privacy and confidentiality. It is recognised that a security breach of electronic medical records might involve hundreds of thousands of records and go unnoticed. However as mentioned previously, microprocessor chip smart cards offer excellent security features as this type of technology has been used in banking for many years and has never been breached.
Smart cards have the potential to help deliver better care to patients, cut down on costs and provide a more effective and efficient way of determining treatment.
Shaefer O. 1995. Introduction of Chip Technology to Health Administration & Medicine in Germany. World Card Technology Magazine. Vol. 1, Issue 3, June 1995, pp. 16-17
Engelbrecht, Dr 1996. DIABCARD - A Smart Card for Patients with Chronic Diseases. Information Technology in Community Health (ITCH) 1996
"Why Some Providers are taking a closer look at Smart Cards". Health Data Network News. June 1998
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