Fingerprint sensors help improve vaccination management in Africa
By Eric Wicklund - Editor( mHealthNews):
A new mobile fingerprint scanner is helping to improve the vaccination rate and reduce wasteful re-immunizations to ensure that the most susceptible people in several Africa have access to needed vaccinations.
On a continent where more than 50 percent of a commonly limited supply of vaccines is wasted, millions of Africans are not vaccinated and an estimated 2.5 million children born this year will die before they reach their fifth birthday that type of mHealth technology is sorely needed.
To that end, Albuquerque, N.M.-based Lumidigm uses multispectral imaging in its sensors along with advanced optical techniques to analyze both the surface and subsurface of the finger. The subsurface analysis is important, officials say, because fingerprint ridges have their foundation in the capillary beds and other sub-dermal structures beneath the surface of the skin.
“Since the skin of children, especially young children, can be very malleable, we knew from experience that conventional biometric technologies that need a finger pressed against the device do not work,” said Mark Thomas, executive director of the international non-profit VaxTrac, in a prepared statement, explaining that is why they aligned with Lumidigm. “The ability that Lumidigm offers to pull fingerprint images from deeper layers produces images less susceptible to distortion and allows us to track vaccinations accurately.”
Once the sensor captures the subject's fingerprint, the user is recorded in VaxTrac's mobile vaccine registry, which offers real-time reporting for matching patient vaccine records and managing the supply chain.
“My favorite part is to see the shock on healthcare workers’ faces after their first scan of another person’s fingerprint,” Thomas added. “The patient is identified instantly and all their vaccination information is available on the computer screen. Workers know immediately what vaccines to administer and which doses are not needed and may be reserved for other citizens.”
Because the sensor can read fingerprints in various weather conditions, be those dry or wet, Bill Spence, Lumidigm's vice president of sales for North America, Europe and Australia, said in the press release that “biometric authentication has reduced the waste of vaccine dramatically, helping so many more people get vaccinated.”
The sensors were initially put to use in March 2013 and have since been deployed to workers in Benin, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia.
VaxTrac is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others, and Lumidigm’s sensors are supplied in partnership with Fulcrum Biometrics of San Antonio, Texas.
Last September, Lumidigm and Fulcrum Biometrics joined forces to create a customized patient identification system for the New Tribes Mission Medical Clinic in Papua New Guinea. The system combines Lumidigm's M-Series multispectral fingerprint reader and Fulcrum's FbF Demographica biometric identification application to help clinic workers accurately identify patients and link them to their medical records.