Idion’s Patient ID Tattoo: Fashion Fad Becomes Patient Innovation

It is not often that an innovation leaps from the world of fashion to healthcare, yet that is exactly what happened with Idion’s skin-applied technology. The company is working to turn patient ID wristbands into antiques and that’s just the beginning.

Dr. Peter Costantino is the Executive Director and Senior Vice President of the New York Head and Neck Institute (Northwell Health) and founder of Idion. He presented Idion’s technology alongside Mowe Simpson, MS, RHIA, CPHIMS from Children’s Health at AHIMA20 and I was fascinated. Dr. Costantino sat down with Healthcare IT Today via video conference to answer questions about their solution.

Birth of an innovation.

Dr. Costantino’s wife works in the fashion industry and jumped into the jewelry-inspired temporary tattoo business. These waterproof tattoos could be manufactured in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. They were easy to apply, did not irritate the skin and could stay on for multiple days with little fading.

Ultimately these temporary tattoos turned out to be a fad and the Costantinos were left with a surplus of inventory. So, they began to brainstorm how they might use them. Given their ties to and experience in healthcare, their minds turned to medical and patient applications, like eyebrow tattoos for chemo patients. Eventually they came up with the idea for a patient ID badge that could replace the standard hospital wristbands.

Those wristbands are:

  • Difficult to fasten
  • Irritate the skin
  • Can easily be fastened too tight
  • Must be rotated in order to be scanned

Patient ID badge

After a few iterations, they arrived at the current design.

“What we have done is get rid of the hospital wristband,” said Dr. Costantino. ”We’ve put the information on the surface of the skin, in more than one location if needed, so that patients are never without it. it’s much more comfortable and the badge is electronically connected to other hospital systems.”

The badge is made out of a very thin (postage-stamp thin) plastic material that’s adhesive and non-reactive/hypoallergenic. Patient information like: name, date of birth, age, weight, medical record number and blood type can be printed on it along with barcodes and QR codes. Everything is customizable and the badges can be produced at the nursing station via a special printer.

“We spent about a year figuring out how to print these things,” explained Dr. Costantino. “We have a very thin electronics array and we put it into a plastic substrate, with an adhesive and backing on it. We ended up putting it through a thermal printer from Zebra. We now print directly from the cloud and from the hospital’s EHR.”

The array that Dr. Costantino is referring to is the badge’s RFID layer. With it, hospital staff can use Near Field Communications (NFC) to “read” the badge without ever having to lift a patient’s sleeve or wake them if they are sleeping.

Almost universally preferred

In 2019, Idion partnered with Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan (Neurosurgery unit) for a trial of their solution. Here were some of the highlights:

  • No adverse skin reactions reported
  • Nurses applied the badge to patients before surgery without difficulty
  • Nurses scanned QR codes on the badge once a day
  • 93% of patients preferred the badge over a wristband
  • 100% of staff preferred the badge over a wristband

The badges also proved to be quite durable. The longest duration was 2 weeks.

Useful during COVID-19

Idion’s badges have become particularly useful in reducing touchpoints during COVID-19. The Northwell system has used the badge on over 30,000 patients, mostly at the Lennox Hill/Greenwich Village Emergency facility in New York City during the pandemic.

According to Dr. Costantino, nurses at the facility stopped using the standard wristbands which they considered a transmission risk and opted to use the tattoo ID badge instead. The RFID technology and the high visibility of Idion’s ID badge allowed clinicians to quickly “read” information (electronically and visually) without having to touch the patient. This eliminates one mode of transmission within the facility.

Looking ahead

“In the near future, the electronics on the ID badge will do much more,” said Dr. Costantino. “We will have Bluetooth capability with an embedded paper battery that can transmit things like temperature, heart rate, pulse oxygenation and even the patient’s location.”

Dr. Costantino made it very clear that the future looks bright for Idion only because of the work and support given by Simpson and his team at Children’s Health in Dallas TX. Simpson’s team conducted an in depth study of the effectiveness of the ID badge and along the way, were able to provide the Idion team with valuable product feedback.

“Without Mowe we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” said Dr. Costantino.

Watch the video to hear Dr. Constantino talk about:

  • How early trials are going (spoiler alert: pretty great)
  • How affordable the technology can be
  • How security and privacy is baked into the ID badge’s design

Visit to learn more.

Listen and subscribe to the Healthcare IT Today Interviews Podcast to hear all the latest insights from experts in healthcare IT.

And for an exclusive look at our top storiessubscribe to our newsletter.

Tell us what you think. Contact us here or on Twitter at @hcitoday. And if you’re interested in advertising with us, check out our various advertising packages and request our media Kit.

About the author

Colin Hung

Colin Hung

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.