When visiting a doctor or a hospital, most people are probably unaware of the many different roles the plastic card plays in the medical sector. Not only does it help to ensure the safety of patients and staff, it also secures medical data and improves the speed at which staff have access to important patient information.
The ID card, usually worn by all members of the medical staff, will have a number of uses - the primary one being a visible ID. It will be printed with details such as the holder’s photo, name, position, ID number and an issue date. In hospitals, cards are generally color coded by means of a printed color panel, for quick identification of the holder’s department or primary role. Examples of this include: different colors for medical staff, administrative staff, facility management, engineering, or security.
This same card will also be used for access control and will generally be a contactless smart card such as a MIFARE or DESFire. The user simply presents their card to the reader for it to be verified. The reader will look-up their record in a central database to grant or deny access through each door or barrier.
Cashless catering will often be utilized, as it saves staff from having to carry cash. This is simpler and more hygienic. As with the access control, contactless smart card technology is used to identify the card holder and confirm that they have sufficient funds in their account to make the purchase.
If the card holder is a doctor or nurse, this same card is often used to log onto a computer to access patient medical records. This data is of course highly sensitive so the card will form just one layer of security. The holder will insert it into a contact or contactless smart card reader and will then enter a password, or scan their fingerprint to verify that they are the holder. Only at this point will it allow them to log onto the computer. As soon as the card is removed the holder is automatically logged off.
Staying within the medical environment, plastic cards are also widely used for asset tagging and marking. In this case, a special plastic card is used which, once printed, can be split into multiple strips of plastic with pre-punched holes to allow it to be easily attached to piece of equipment. Generally the tag will be printed with an item identification number, barcode, and issue date. This information is typically used to manage the maintenance and upkeep of equipment. It may also ensure that cleaning and sterilization procedures are adhered to.
Moving away from the medical environment, the general public also normally has some form of card which plays an important role in identifying them and their medical information. The format of this card will vary from country to country with examples including a national ID card, driver’s license, national medical card or donor card. This will often contain important medical information about the holder such as: blood type, details of any medical conditions, allergies, and medication they take. Having this information available saves valuable time and lives, when being treated by paramedics in an emergency.
These systems are not always government driven, and there is a growing trend for independent organizations to offer medical identification cards which anyone can purchase.