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Newborns able to stay ink free with use of scanning gadget

Erika Auerbach and her husband, Dr. Adam Auerbach, of Syosset, were thrilled to welcome their newborn son, Spencer, Monday night. They were also delighted to learn that their son’s first footprint was handled in high-tech fashion, without the mess and fuss of the traditional inkpad, thanks to the innovative folks at CertaScan Technologies. The Newborn Safety System – which uses LiveScan Technology – offers digital, high-resolution scans of a baby’s footprints. (Credit: Danielle Silverman)

Welcome to the world, Spencer Auerbach, a newborn bundle of joy whose tiny feet are helping a North Shore hospital take some big steps.

When Spencer was born at 8:18 Monday night at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, nurses did not use the old-fashioned way of identifying newborns with an inky stamp of his footprints.

Instead, they employed a new device that digitally scanned his footprints and uploaded the images into a database in the Cloud. The footprints were matched with a photo of his face — a little pink, with the puffy, gray eyes — and his mother's fingerprints.

Hospital officials say the LiveScan Technology offers infants and their parents better protection in the event of a child abduction or loss during some natural disaster. The footprints can be quickly uploaded, with the parents' permission, to law enforcement across the nation such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, they said.

Moreover, the process also protects the privacy of the infant and family, said Sue Robertson, the hospital's chief nursing information officer. The images are stored on a secure data site operated by the manufacturer, which parents can access online with a password they create on their own.

It's a big step from messy ink pads, she said.

"When you use an ink pad, it's a static image, which can fade, and get crumpled and lost," Robertson said.

Linking the baby's footprint — an identifier different for every person — to the mother's fingerprint can speed investigations in case of a baby switch or kidnapping, said Jennifer Hawthorne, director of operations for the manufacturer, CertaScan Technologies.

"There can be no question as to who is the mother of that baby," Hawthorne said. "That mom is linked to that baby within two hours after birth."

North Shore, which received four scanners a few weeks ago, is the first hospital on Long Island to employ this technology, Hawthorne said. Nurses there have used it on about 100 babies, and while parents can decline the free service, none has so far.

The scanners, which have been around since 2014, have been placed in more than 100 hospitals in 33 states. They have scanned more than 260,000 babies, Hawthorne said.

Spencer's parents, Dr. Adam and Erika Auerbach of Syosset, said they appreciated the technology.

"For us, it provides an extra layer of security," said Adam Auerbach, 43, medical director of the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital at NSUH. "Of course we hope we never have to use that."

Security was already a priority in the maternity area, a locked unit with restricted access, hospital officials said. Babies are given a wristband identifying them and an electronic ankle band that sounds an alarm and locks the exit doors should an unauthorized person try to leave with an infant.

Erika Auberbach, 32, said she was pretty out of it when the nurse did the scans, shortly after she gave birth. 

"No more messy ink, so you don't have to keep washing their feet," said the mother, adding that the couple has a 2-year-old girl at home.  

Nurses say they appreciate the scanner's ease and cleanliness.

"Babies are not the most cooperative people," said veteran nurse Sue O'Reilly. "We used to have to clean the ink out of all the crevices [on the baby's foot]. It was a hot mess."

Dad, for his part, appreciated another aspect. When parents access the scans online, they can download the images of the footprints and place them on a mug or a T-shirt.

The mug is a given, said Adam Auerbach. Thinking ahead, the father says that when his son brings home his first girlfriend, dad plans on greeting the girl wearing the image of Spencer's baby footprints on a T-shirt.

"I want to embarrass him with it down the road," he said. "That's the fun part."

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