Power to the Patient: Mount Sinai Puts Medical Records Snapshot on Smart Cards

At New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center, an innovative program gives patients a personal medical snapshot on an encrypted smart card. The goals: Improve quality of care, reduce records mistakes, and speed revenue collection. Is this part of the future for your health records?

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Ultimately, one of the biggest issues around Mount Sinai's vision may be who issues the smart cards to consumers, and who bears the costs. The card issuer could be a hospital, an insurer, and employer, or a related entity. Mount Sinai's pilot is being funded by smart card vendor Siemens, as it prepares to develop future products, and the first 100,000 cards have been paid for by Siemens. The hospital will bear the cost of the cards after that. Contino believes that in the long term, the entity that consumers will trust the most is a hospital or medical group.

On the technology side, Contino notes one potentially significant hurdle looms. "One thing we have to overcome is incompatibility," he says. Given the way data is encoded on the chip on any smart card, the OS acts as a wrapper around that data. Different smart card vendors favor different operating systems. "There will continue to be several OSes," in the world at large, being used on smart card applications as varied as security and public transit, Contino says. "Ultimately, we'll need an interoperability layer." This would let developers use API-like functionality to access data on the card no matter the OS, he notes.

As far as advice to other IT leaders working on smart card rollouts, Contino says the Mount Sinai team followed classic IT strategy in one key regard. "Think focused, on an area where you can get immediate improvement, then think about aggregating services on the card."

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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