The short answer is that fingerprint scanners take an image of a person’s fingerprint but in reality, the technology is more complex. Fingerprint scanning uses a biometric process, or measurement and analysis of a person’s distinctive physical characteristics, to electronically collect and store human fingerprints.
By identifying and authenticating a scanned fingerprint against a database of known fingerprints, fingerprint scanners can: identify individuals, allow or deny people to access to a restricted area, operate a vehicle, permit the use of electronic equipment, open a cellphone app, and more.
Once only seen in futuristic movies and television shows, the use of fingerprint scanning has become a commonplace security measure in hospitals and healthcare facilities. Fingerprint scanners are used to grant access into buildings, obtain medical records, and identify patients.
According to a 2016 study by the ECRI Institute Patient Safety Organization's (PSO), a nonprofit group that advocates for patient safety, inaccurate medical records and patient misidentification has led to an increased number of medical neglect cases. The ECRI Institute found 13% of mistakes occurred during patient registration and at least 22% of errors involved people who received the wrong treatment or procedure.