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What the heck are Biometrics?

By, Christine Wilson, PhD, ANP-BC, FNP-B

I asked that question the other day to see if everyone was on the same page. We weren’t.  Because as new technology and needs have arisen, the term has been applied in many more ways than it used to be.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary which people have used to define words for 194 years, the definition of biometrics is: 

“Definition of biometrics


2: the measurement and analysis of unique physical or behavioral characteristics (such as fingerprint or voice patterns) especially as a means of verifying personal identity”1

Well, that wasn’t how we were using it. So I looked further.  

Next I checked the definition that Oxford Languages uses.  Oxford Languages considers itself the world’s leading dictionary publisher and has over 150 years of experience in more than 50 languages.

According to Oxford:

“Bi·o·met·rics /ˌbīōˈmetriks/


  1. another term for biometry.
  2. another term for biostatistics.”2

Well that tells me a lot – NOT!

So I went to my students’ favorite reference, “ ______ For Dummies.”  And in the description of Biometrics for Dummies I found this:

“— the science of identifying humans based on unique physical characteristics. With the government’s use of biometrics — for example, biometric passport readers — and application of the technology for law enforcement, biometrics is growing more popular among security experts.”3

Frustrating…, but we were using the term in association with healthcare so maybe I should add that to my search criteria?  And I found this:

“Biometrics are used in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other healthcare settings for ensuring accurate patient identification, or for monitoring patients.”4

In 2022, the application of the term biometrics includes access control, patient record storage, patient monitoring outside of traditional healthcare settings, electronic prescriptions and remote diagnosis.  

That was not how we were using it….

Interesting side note: apparently, correct biometric identification also prevents healthcare fraud as people try to assume someone else’s identity in order to obtain duplicate benefits, services, prescriptions and “phantom claims” attempts.  The technologies expected to be used are primarily fingerprint but also vein, face, iris, voice, hand, and signature. 

From a geographical standpoint, it has been suggested that North America will be at the forefront of the healthcare biometrics market in the next few years mainly due to the amount of healthcare fraud and enforcement of legislation.5

Ah, come on – still not the way we were using it!   So I took out healthcare and put in just biometric & health and finally something came close to what we had been thinking. 

“A biometric screening, sometimes called a biometric health screening or biometric assessment, provides a clinical assessment of key health measures. These results may be used to identify certain health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, or to indicate an increased risk for these conditions.

Finally, that’s what we are talking about: a specific type of biometrics.  Using measurements such as height, weight, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar to check health status at a single point in time. A way to take control of your life so you stay healthy.

This type of screening may help you to start on medication before you have a heart attack, decrease weight before diabetes or learn about vitamin deficiencies before you become symptomatic. 

Biometric screening is not done in place of a regular physical examination by your healthcare provider. It won’t diagnose disease. But it may show possible risk factors that can be changed so you do not go on to have disease.

The screening is sometimes offered by your employer because keeping you healthy will keep the company’s insurance premiums lower.  If you stay healthier and feel better there is less lost work time and a happier work environment which may lead to more productivity and better performance.

Finally, that was the definition we were searching for…

These are the tests employers sometimes offer to keep employees healthy.  But now there is a way for you to get these tests without waiting for your employer or routine physical.

How do I know?  Because Meenta has brought them together all on one marketplace. 

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1Merrian Webster. 2022. Biometrics. Accessible at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biometrics

2United States Homeland Security. Biometrics. Office of Biometric Identity Management. Accessible at: https://www.dhs.gov/biometrics#:~:text=Biometrics%20is%20the%20measurement%20of,used%20to%20identify%20an%20individual.

3Gregory, P. H., & Simon, M. A. (2008). Biometrics for dummies.

4Healthcare Biometrics.  Biometric Update.com.  Accessible at: https://www.biometricupdate.com/biometric-news/healthcare-biometrics#:~:text=Biometrics%20are%20used%20in%20doctors,control%20or%20patient%20record%20storage.

5Mascellino, A. (Mar 23, 20220. Healthcare biometrics market to exceed $74B by 2028 amid ‘phantom claim’ fight.  Biometric Update.com.  Accessible at: https://www.biometricupdate.com/202203/healthcare-biometrics-market-to-exceed-74b-by-2028-amid-phantom-claim-fight

6PDHI. Accessible at: https://www.pdhi.com/wellness-portal/what-is-a-biometric-screening/

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