Improving Patient Identification
Simprints Technology is a nonprofit startup from the University of Cambridge that builds biometric identification technology for people who lack legal identities in the developing world. The company’s motto is “every person counts” and its mission is to end global poverty. Specifically, Simprints Technology works on maternal health, immunizations and cash transfers. With support from Arm Holdings, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, USAID and other influential organizations — Simprints Technology is an established name in the Tech for Good industry. With this continued support, the nonprofit is improving patient identification and thus, overall access to healthcare in the developing world.

The Problem: Improving Patient Identification

Many developing countries lack proper patient identification systems as a result of limited infrastructure and technology. Where medical records do exist in developing countries, they are often paper-based and highly susceptible to damage or loss. Furthermore, typical identifiers such as name or date of birth are at times unusable since many patients live in dense areas where people share the same names and/or may not know exact dates of birth.

Without a holistic and integrated healthcare system to sync patient information across platforms, medical providers fail to deliver timely healthcare services for those most in need. As health workers struggle to reliably and sustainably identify and keep track of patients, billions of people are in danger of falling behind with their healthcare systems.

The Solution: Mobile-Based Biometrics

Implementing biometric identification will play a significant role in fighting poverty in developing countries. The World Bank’s ID4D initiative champions the transformational potential of digital identification systems. According to the World Bank’s survey, close to 40% of adult populations in low-income countries do not have proper identification.

This is where Simprints Technology comes into play. The company is attempting to close the identity gap in developing countries. It aims to do this by equipping developing countries with rugged, hand-held devices (such as mobile phones) to collect fingerprint scans. The scans are then translated into unique identification numbers for health records. As no two fingerprints are the same — fingerprint scanning provides a fast and reliable way to verify a person’s identity.

The 3 Step Approach

Simprints Technology shows its commitment to improving healthcare access by offering end-to-end services for medical front-liners in developing countries. The company uses a three-step approach, which includes ensuring a seamless project set up, implementing smart scanners and apps while providing back-end data analytics and support. Simprints Technology incorporates human-centered and privacy-first design in its operating systems — affirming the company’s stance as a social enterprise. So far, Simprints Technology has impacted more than 400,000 beneficiaries across a dozen countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa — providing citizens with essential healthcare, education and financing solutions through the use of biometrics.

Disrupting Global Poverty Solutions

By increasing access to essential services like healthcare, Simprints Technology offers a promising solution to the identity gap in developing countries. The company’s technology is purportedly at least 228% more accurate than leading competitors — indicating a clear disruption in solving 21st-century poverty.

Mariyah Lia
Photo: Unsplash

biometric identificationGavi, the Geneva-based vaccine alliance, has partnered with Simprints Technology in order to provide more accurate records of vaccination for children in Bangladesh and Tanzania. The partnership hopes to use biometric identification methods to track the medical history of children under five. Because half of the children born in sub-Saharan Africa are not registered at birth, they lack an official “identity,” making it infinitely more difficult to access medical care and vaccinations for life-threatening diseases. This ever-evolving technology would allow doctors to administer immunizations at clinics to scan a child’s fingerprint, and immediately have access to a complete record of vaccinations.

What is Biometric Identification?

Biometric identification uses unique indications of a person, such as a fingerprint, voice recording, retinal scan or even an ear scan, as proof of a person’s identity. Major technology corporations like Apple have been moving towards this as a more secure mode of entry to devices like laptops or smartphones. As so many facets of daily life are digitalized, and with many people in developed countries possessing more than one device and countless online accounts, this method does away with the need for passwords and usernames. Instead, users may unlock their devices or accounts with their fingerprints or their face. Because of the reliability and security of this method, global poverty initiatives, like Simprints, are looking towards this technology as a means of accurately tracking medical history and practice.

The Security Risks

Though biometric identification poses many benefits, there are security risks to using this technology. Just as bank account passwords or credit card information can be hacked and stolen to be used for profit, so too can this more complex information. Hackers would not be stealing someone’s fingerprint or retinal scan. Instead, as technology like this becomes more prevalent, a robust online identity will be attached to individuals, geographic location, gender, and medical records. Access to this information may allow companies seeking a profit to contact a more specific demographic, and hackers may sell this information to people who may benefit from it.

These security risks are combatted by ensuring informed consent before any scans are taken and allowing every individual to determine for what purposes their data is used.

The Vaccination Record Initiative

Simprints Technology, a non-profit organization specializing in biometric identification, is providing the fingerprinting equipment for this trial. The company’s mission is to use biometric identifying technologies to fight global poverty, primarily by easing the minutia of healthcare. For example, these methods can also be used to increase maternal healthcare by more effectively tracking an expectant mother’s doctor visits.

In Bangladesh and Tanzania, Simprints and Gavi will work to create digital identities for thousands of young children. Simprints technology is so fine-tuned for this type of work that their equipment can account for the blurriness of a child’s fingerprints, and potential burning or scarring of the hands that is more common for people from this demographic. Once these programs are enacted, doctors or those working in medical clinics will simply scan a child’s finger to access a complete and accurate medical record.

Despite security concerns regarding biometric identification and its uses, this increased health initiative will safeguard children against preventable diseases. The program is a demonstration of how people with a desire to fight global poverty are doing so with revolutionary technology.

– Gina Beviglia
Photo: Flickr