Two Massachusetts hospitals adopt credit-card sized medical records

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The size of medical records is shrinking in two Massachusetts hospitals affiliated with the North Shore's Northeast Health System (NHS).

 The healthcare provider is collaborating with Oklahoma City-based Health Card Technologies Inc. to develop a faster, more-efficient patient admitting system that uses smart cards with embedded computer chips.

Patients at the 227-bed Beverly (Mass.) Hospital and Addison Gilbert Hospital, of Gloucester, Mass., a 58-bed medical/surgical acute care facility, will use plastic wallet-sized smart cards for registration. Embedded computer chips store information that identifies a patient's records in hospital computers once the cards are read through readers attached to admitting terminals.

 Advanced built-in cryptographic engines have been developed on the smart cards to ensure security. "Even if someone with the right tools managed to read the information on the smart card chip, they wouldn't learn anything other than the patient's record number within our system," said Cheryl Akre Teal, director of access services of Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals.

 Both hospitals will distribute some 500,000 cards in the next 12 months. The system uses the same technology employed in the national healthcare smart card program of Germany, an application of more than 80 million smart cards.