June 02, 2006, 9:47 AM — A decade ago, William Beaumont Hospital, a 254-bed community hospital in Troy, Michigan, had a problem with a small number of rogue employees who were stealing narcotics from a storage area.
At the time, narcotics storage was secured with a lock that opened by entering a code on a keypad. Security Director Chris Hengstebeck looked for ways to tighten control of the affected rooms and cabinets and to generate a log of employees accessing them.
The solution: a biometric hand geometry system, which identifies individuals through hand measurements. The hospital now has about 40 hand readers that control access not only to narcotics but also to the maternity ward and other sensitive areas. Hundreds of employees use the system.
To enter a restricted area, employees must punch in their unique ID number and then have their hand scanned. "We recognized that there was a problem with ID cards and passwords being stolen," Hengstebeck said during a presentation at the Winter 2006 Biometrics Summit. "The primary advantage of hand geometry over anything else is that it's inextricably linked to the user," Hengstebeck says.
The hospital has added a fingerprint reader linked to the cabinets holding narcotics to further control access. Now the hospital plans to use the hand geometry and fingerprint reader combination in areas of its US$493 million expansion due to start this summer.
The system has several benefits besides improved access control. It helps with investigations. Linked with security cameras and a database of employee identification information, the system generates concrete evidence of possible improper or unlawful activities. It is also flexible enough that staffers can bypass it when they need immediate access, such as when a patient is being rushed to surgery