In this article, we’re going to explore some of the different software that providers use to maintain patient records and how they impact patient identification. Some systems are built exclusively for record keeping purposes, like EHR systems, but there are other technologies that support data collection and preservation. Which of these tools (or combination of tools) is the best for advancing absolute patient identity in your medical organization?
Electronic Health Records (EHR) System
2015 statistics indicate that some form of EHR system is currently used by more than 87% of all healthcare providers. Adoption rates have spiked since 2008 and the implementation of Meaningful Use legislation, and is expected to become a standard practice under the newly-implemented MACRA legislation, as well. Certified EHR systems are vetted by the government to meet several standards for recording patient health information, keeping it secure, and making it available for other care facilities who may be treating the patient.
EHRs contain all of the patient’s core demographic data and clinical data, as well as tools for electronic prescribing and appointment setting. Using EHR is a good way to consistently maintain patient records and quickly access them at will, and even gives patients a way to review their own health records.
Because EHR data is entered or looked up by a human, however, there is always room for identification error. Offline miscommunication at stages like the patient registration interview can lead to inaccuracies within the record, mistaken updates, or the creation of duplicate records. These errors can lead to adverse care, unnecessary treatments, or other damaging actions. Luckily, other systems can be used in tandem with EHRs to ensure accuracy.
Medical identity bracelets can be given to the wrong individual, misprinted, or misread, leading healthcare staff to pull up the incorrect EHR record. Smart cards eliminate those scenarios. A smart card is an encrypted ID card approximately the size of a credit card or driver’s license. Like new debit cards, it features a chip that is embedded with a unique identifier for the cardholder. When that chip is read by the record system, it automatically summons the correct corresponding EHR record for the patient.
mart cards are near-impossible to duplicate. While the cards can still be lost or stolen, they significantly decrease the risk of healthcare fraud or patient misidentification at participating facilities. They are also more convenient for patients, who can receive care from any facility using one card and gain peace of mind that they’re specific record will be pulled by facility staff.
Patient Biometrics Technology
Different biometrics systems have been implemented in healthcare for patient use, as well. The options range from iris scans, fingerprint scans, palm vein scans, and more. Unlike smart cards, the biometric information associated with a single patient cannot be lost, replicated, or stolen. This method, especially when paired with smart card use, is the most accurate way to ensure absolute patient identity. Additionally, this pairing is the most cost-effective way to leverage biometrics technology, which can sometimes be expensive. Facilities can have patients perform initial intake or check-in at self-service kiosks leveraging these systems. After that, they can check in anywhere else using their more portable smart card.
What NOT to Use: Paper Records
Although they’re generally easy to implement, there are a number of serious issues with still using paper records in a modern healthcare setting. The Group Health Cooperative list of medical record and document standards features specific considerations for paper documentation, such as:
- “Ensure that documents are fastened securely within a paper medical record”
- “Entries are legible to others and are recorded in black or blue ink if on paper”
- “Only standard medical abbreviations should be used in documentation”
These considerations only apply to facilities using paper documentation. There is simply too much unnecessary risk present when relying on paper health records over electronic systems. Risks include:
- Higher probability of misfiling, misplacement, or destruction
- More frequent transcription or communication errors due to handwriting differences
- Logistical challenges in submitting quality measures under MIPS, transmitting information to other facilities, or reconciling patient information
All of these are detrimental to identifying patients correctly and delivering quality care, and make it exceedingly difficult to properly maintain patient records.
Audit Your Records – and the Underlying Process
Can you say with confidence that your practice’s patient health records are completely accurate and there is no risk of patient misidentification? Is your database free from any duplicate records? Take another look and see if there are any flaws. If so, you may want to check your patient verification methods.
The Privasent team will work with you to determine how patient authentication systems can keep your records tidy and your patients safe. If you’re interested in evaluating palm vein scanning and smart card technology for your facility, contact us today.