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Researchers use a patient’s heartbeat as the password for their medical records

Newswire: Jan. 18, 2017.

Dateline: Binghamton, N.Y.

Researchers at Binghamton University in New York State say they have found a new and strong way to protect a patient’s health records and privacy: The patient’s own heartbeat.

The solution, developed by Zhanpeng Jin and colleagues in Binghamton U.’s Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science, uses a person’s unique electrocardiograph (ECG) as the passkey to lock and unlock files. An ECG is generated by a biosensor attached to the skin, which measures the electrical activity of the heart.

Essentially, the ECG acts as a unique biometric, similar to a fingerprint, retinal scan, voice scan or other identifier.

“While ECG signals are collected for clinical diagnosis and transmitted through networks to electronic health records, we strategically reused the ECG signals for the data encryption,” Jin said in a statement. “Through this strategy, the security and privacy can be enhanced while minimum cost will be added.”

Jin noted that traditional encryption solutions present problems of cost and complexity to the growing fields of telemedicine or mobile healthcare, which are gradually replacing clinic-based healthcare.

“This research will be very helpful and significant for next-generation secure, personalized healthcare,” Jin said.

Of course, a person’s ECG can change with age, or due to illness or injury. Researchers are at work finding ways to incorporate those variables.

The research was presented in December at the IEEE Global Communications Conference in Washington.

Read the full story here.