Business

Lexington’s Imprivata acquires palm-scanning technology

The palm-scanning system acquired by Lexington-based Imprivata is designed to let patients check in quickly and avoid problems with duplicate medical records.

Imprivata Inc.

The palm-scanning system acquired by Lexington-based Imprivata is designed to let patients check in quickly and avoid problems with duplicate medical records.

A Lexington health care technology company said Thursday that it has acquired a small firm that makes a product with big potential: a palm-scanning patient identification system.

Imprivata Inc. said it will pay $19 million, plus up to $7 million in additional payments over the next two years, for HT Systems of Tampa . HT Systems sells a system that helps hospitals and medical offices identify patients and access their records by scanning a patient’s palm.

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The technology helps cut down on medical fraud and improve safety by ensuring that patients are linked to the correct records, according to both companies.

“As patient records go online and get more automated, identifying patients is incredibly important,” said Omar Hussain, chief executive of Imprivata. “We estimate the market for patient authentication is $2 billion a year.”

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The deal is the first for Imprivata since it went public on the New York Stock Exchange last year, and is its first push to sell technology that can be used by patients. The company’s products so far have focused on health care providers, such as a system that allows doctors to log on to various software programs with the tap of an ID badge.

HT Systems uses a small device to scan the vein pattern in a patient’s hand and then call up the patient’s electronic health record. This allows patients to check in quickly for doctor and hospital visits, instead of spending several minutes providing their information orally or by filling out forms.

Hussain said the palm-scanning technology could help solve a persistent problem at hospitals: duplicate medical records.

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According to estimates, about 10 percent of hospital records could be duplicates, meaning, for example, that a patient’s allergies could be in one record while his or her medical history could be in another.

Duplicate records are often created in error when patients check in for medical visits. Palm scanners have helped cut down on duplicates at Atlantic Health System in Morristown, N.J., said its chief information officer, Linda Reed.

“Any patient who comes through our registration system uses it,” Reed said. “It brings up their record right away. And it’s faster, it actually speeds up their encounter.”

The system is used by 22 million patients at more than 350 hospitals and thousands of clinics.

Hussain said palm scanning is a better alternative to biometric scanners that read the iris or take fingerprints.

“It’s nonthreatening,” he said. “Patients are very comfortable with it.”

Imprivata’s revenues last year were $97 million, an increase of 36 percent from 2013. The company lost about $17 million last year. Since going public in June, the company’s stock is down 8 percent, with a closing price yesterday of $14.93.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.
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