Maintaining Patient Loyalty in the Age of Consumerism

For years, health insurers have sold their plans almost exclusively to employers. Today, only 48 percent of healthcare payer customers get their insurance from their employer. Healthcare consumers are now directly paying for more of their healthcare costs, both for the care itself and insurance coverage. Consumers have a growing number of choices on both the payer and the provider side. Increasing transparency is making it much easier for them to effectively comparison shop. Relatively undifferentiated product offerings for newly empowered customers will be forced to compete primarily on price and face very low barriers to customer turnover. As out-of-pocket costs rise, consumers expect an experience that is comparable to what they get in other sectors. Health plans and providers understand that they cannot afford to ignore this trend and must embrace it or be left behind. Marketing is needed to rolling out new ideas and campaigns across the organization, but supporting cross-functional technical change is an area of leadership for CIOs who are accustomed to building new skills across geographic areas and technical processes. CMOs understand changing customer needs and the opportunity that creates to boost sales, but the CIO is the only one who can bring those new solutions and modes of commerce and customer interaction to market for the company. Neither technology nor marketing changes alone can effectively address these challenges. We believe that technology will be the catalyst for true differentiation and brand loyalty. The simpler the process, the more likely the customer will buy and repurchase. Adding innovative technologies like biometric patient identity, combined with a smartcard, can be seen not only a clear differentiator but relays to the healthcare consumer that their safety is a top priority of the [...]

Merging Patient Loyalty Programs and Patient Identity

The Affordable Care Act has put new emphasis on preventing chronic conditions—which account for more than 80% of U.S. healthcare costs—rather than treating them after the fact, which is something the provider network wanted to address. A few innovative hospitals around the country have begun to offer patient loyalty programs to encourage patient to get regular preventative-care check-ups and screenings. As patients check in for these visits, their card is swiped and they accrue points for future perks. These loyalty programs can provide patients with perks like valet parking, 10% off in the hospital cafeteria or discounts on non-prescription drugs at the pharmacy. Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills, MI, started their program in 2010 with the acronym "VIP" taking on a whole new meaning: Very Important Patient.  The hospital website states: "The Botsford Very Important Patient (VIP) program is our way of extending premier services and valuable discounts to you, our patients, because you deserve special treatment." In 2013, Primary Health Network, a group of federally qualified community health centers in Ohio and Pennsylvania, started a V.I.P. Loyalty Program using cards in an effort to reduce the high rate of missed appointments. The cards were similar to cards one might be given in a rewards program for an airline or grocery store. It was an effort led by now-retired CEO Jack Laeng to reduce incidents in which patients “failed to show” for primary-care, dental, gynecologic and other appointments. The rate of missed appointments was about 15% at the network's 45 locations in 2012. These programs were effective in both of these Mid-West Healthcare organizations. But if your organization decides to offer a perks program, be wary of focusing solely on amenities. While patients are apt to choose [...]

Problem Solved for Patient Matching Data

AHIMA  recently published a study  in the journal Perspectives in Health Information Management analyzing  nearly 400,000 duplicate patient record pairs that came from a range of geographies and organization types. The study, titled “Why Patient Matching Is a Challenge: Research on Master Patient Index (MPI) Data Discrepancies in Key Identifying Fields,” examined the differences between duplicate pairs in data fields such as name, birthdate, and SSN focusing on what data errors had caused the duplicates to be created in the first place. The study is broad-based and comprehensive in its analysis. The results, however, are hardly surprising. The study found that duplicate records were caused by four problems: (1) a lack of data standardization, (2) frequently changing demographic data, (3) a lack of enough demographic data points in a record, and (4) the entry of default and null values in key identifying fields. The conclusion was to suggest that improving data governance would lessen the occurrence of those four problems—and therefore would greatly decrease the creation of duplicate records.  Although this statement is certainly true, it is far easier said than done. Privasent solves the patient matching problem in an innovative way that eliminates the need for providers to clean and govern their data just to find and prevent duplicates. The Privasent solution uses a patented process combining biometric technologies and smart cards to register and authenticate patient identities, displacing the error-ridden and privacy-compromising demographics-based approaches currently deployed for patient identification. Using our absolute patient identity methodology, we address each of the four problems identified by the report as issues that lead to duplicate records. Problem: A lack of data standardization Solution: Once a patient is enrolled in our system, they are authenticated biometrically using a hand [...]

Use of Smartcards for Healthcare

Smart cards for healthcare are well established in France, Germany and Taiwan, but they have received minimal attention in the United States. Benefits of a smartcard include faster registration of patients, absolute healthcare identity, portability of medical records and potential data support for existing electronic health records. History of the use of smartcards for healthcare outside the U.S. The history of large scale deployment of health cards in the healthcare sector goes back to the late eighties/early nineties, when France and Germany each started national programs on the nationwide introduction of health insurance cards. Since then, other nations, such as Slovenia and Belgium, have also introduced health cards, and various projects have been started all over Europe over the last 10 years or so. The objective of the European Commission's efforts is not the harmonization of the health systems but the achieving more cooperation and more convergence among the health systems and the finding answers to the open questions concerning cross border healthcare according to increasing patient’s mobility in Europe. France has more than 45 million people using smartcards for healthcare and almost all German citizens have and use one of these cards. Defining the Technology When used in healthcare, smart cards contain medical data for the patient they represent. Rather than a paper chart or an electronic health record stored and transported over the Internet, this wallet-sized card contains a computer chip loaded with pertinent medical information. The chip interacts with a computer system to make stored health information available. Smartcards in Healthcare in the United States Rather than actually carrying healthcare information, smartcards in the US have been used for identity authentication. The smartcards could be used to manage billing to various health-insurance companies [...]

The Next Generation of Biometric Identification

First generation biometric devices are showing up everywhere these days from your smartphone to your gym. These devices can authenticate a user on the spot and let them have access to their phone or into their gym. They provide a moderate level of security to a device or a place that doesn’t require a high level of security. Both finger prints and facial recognition software have been easily fooled with high quality photographs and even Silly Puddy. For access to information with a medium level of sensitivity, this level of security is probably enough. For access to information which requires a higher level of security, like medical records, you really need a next generation biometric. A next generation biometric combines the physical biometric, like a palm vein scan, with a smartcard. This combination prevents a bad actor from fooling the software because palm vein scans cannot be duplicated and the smartcard has to be used in addition to the person’s palm.  This increases the security of the system dramatically. Incorrect identification in a medical setting could be devastating. It could lead to merging your record with another person’s record. This could lead to improper medical diagnosis, confusion over allergies and being given the wrong medication. Your safety as a patient and your responsibility as a provider requires the due diligence a next generation biometric provides. Using a first generation biometric identification system in a medical setting is like choosing a flip-phone over a smart phone. Which would you prefer having in your pocket? Learn about next generation biometrics and how they can help identify patients in your medical setting at

How can you share data if you don’t know who your patients are?

That is a very good question. In Meaningful Use II there is a really big push for interoperable data. That is the sharing of data between healthcare facilities to provide a complete picture of an individual health record. It all sounds really great and would be if healthcare facilities had more accurate ways of identifying their patients. The current methods of identifying patients with demographics lead to misidentification of patients, duplicate records and the inaccurate merging of records. Healthcare provider organizations report that between 8 and 13 percent of their medical records are duplicated — and sometimes as high as 22 percent. In multi-facility environments, where disparate application systems are integrated, the percentage of duplicates can surpass 30 percent. Solving this issue can be frustrating, time consuming and expensive. Software packages are available to compare patient records from disparate systems and indicate the probability that two records are duplicates, unique or potentially duplicate. These packages use probabilistic matching algorithms that incorporate phonetic similarities, variances in typographical entries and dates, and aliases. By determining the relative “weight” of specific comparators, the patient identity process improves significantly. However, until you have absolute healthcare identification, you will never prevent duplicate records and will always be in a constant loop of data cleansing. By using a combination of smart cards and biometric identification, you can confidently identify the patient during the registration process. You don’t have to depend on what the patient tells you to verify who they are; the biometric will do that for you. You can record the time and dates that a patient receives care, preventing both identify theft and billing fraud. As I stated at the beginning, you can’t share data between systems if you [...]

What Loyalty Programs Would Mean for Healthcare

Everyone loves to get something for free or at a discount. Many industries use loyalty programs to allow customers to accrue points and use them as coupons to get freebies or reduced prices the next time they come to the store, airline, or car rental among others. The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) recently published an article suggesting that “the use of loyalty programs within accountable care organizations (ACOs) could be a means of achieving patient-centric care and enhance the health system business model.” Patient retention is a problem for many practices. Loyalty programs could offer patients benefits such as vouchers for free parking, cafeteria discounts, preferred rates at restaurants or hotels, or even cab and bus vouchers, according to the article. The benefits can grow over time to ensure people with the greatest health needs receive the most rewards. The programs also could extend to medical supply companies, pharmacies and other ancillary providers, and potentially be tailored to individual patients, the authors suggest. Health systems could benefit if their loyalty programs would encourage patients to seek care with affiliated clinicians, keeping the patient within the ACOs care network. That could help ACOs save money by discouraging patients from seeking more costly care. Loyalty program members also are more likely to see the health system in a positive light and increase the customer satisfaction quotient. We would add that pairing the idea of a loyalty program with a smartcard biometric registration application, like Privasent, would further enhance the patient safety and satisfaction aspect. The physical smartcard could be used as the loyalty program token as well as providing absolute healthcare identity for the patient. Absolute healthcare identity supports the ACOs by eliminating identity fraud, reducing [...]

Medicare’s Use of Smartcards for Identification

The Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) General Accounting Office (GAO) completed a study on the use of smartcards to prevent fraud in Medicare. Their findings were that the use of smartcards would completely or partially prevent 22% of Medicare fraud, which in their minds did not support the cost or inconvenience of implementing a smartcard program. They stated most Medicare fraud (about 68% of the cases) included more than one scheme with 61% including two to four schemes. The most common health care fraud schemes were related to fraudulent billing, such as billing for services that were not provided and billing for services that were not medically necessary. They determined that having a smartcard would not have prevented these types of fraud because the patient was present and did actually receive some type of care. The question that the HHS GAO study did not consider was patient safety. I realize there is a lot of Medicare fraud, that it is a great burden to our government, reducing the amount of funding available to support the Medicare program, but patient safety is also an important concern. The lack of standards for patient identification at the federal and state levels compromises patient safety and escalates health care costs. According to Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), 8-14% of Electronic Health Records (EHR) have patient identity errors. The risk of an identity error increases 5% every time a record is shared among providers. Simply said, a physician relying on the wrong EHR and medical history due to an identity error can make a costly, if not deadly, decision. Having a smartcard, especially one paired with a biometric identifier like a pal- vein scan, would provide an absolute [...]

Congress looking at Smartcards for Medicare Recipients

Last March the General Accounting Office provided Congress with a study on the Potential Uses of Electronically Readable Cards for Medicare Beneficiaries and Providers.  Congress had asked for the study because currently Medicare recipients have paper cards which display Social Security Numbers, making them vulnerable to identity theft and fraud. Congress was asked to investigate the following questions for the report. What are the different features and functions of electronic readable cards? What are the pros and cons of using electronic readable cards for Medicare? What steps would be required by CMS and Medicare providers need to take to implement the cards? What are the lessons learned from the other countries who have implemented electronic readable cards for healthcare? The following is a synopsis of what the report found. CMS could use electronically readable cards for several purposes: Authenticating beneficiary and provider presence at the point of care Electronically exchanging beneficiary medical information Electronically conveying beneficiary identity and insurance information to providers There are two types of electronically readable cards, those with a magnetic strip or bar codes and those with a computer chip, called smartcards. Although both types have the capacity to store beneficiary and insurance information, the smartcards provide more rigorous authentication and security against fraud. Potentially presenting a card at the point of card could reduce certain types of Medicare fraud, but they felt it would not eliminate fraud as there would be legitimate reasons when the card could not be presented. As of May 2014, CMS was aware of 284,000 Medicare beneficiary numbers that had been compromised and potentially used to submit fraudulent claims. Authenticating providers at the point of care could potentially limit fraud schemes in which individuals or companies [...]

4 Reasons Why Smart Cards and Biometrics Make a Great Team

Smart cards have been used for patient access for a number of years around the world, but adding a biometric component to the card is a new twist. Adding the biometric increases the level of security associated with the card. The winning combination has begun to produce measurable financial benefits for healthcare institutions. 1.  Smart card with biometrics and Meaningful Use: Measure 1) Eligible hospitals that transition their patients to another setting of care or provider of care and refers their patient to another provider of care provides a summary care record for each transition of care or referral. Measure 2) More than 10% of these summaries a) electronically submitted or b) via an exchange facilitated by an organization that is NwHIN exchange participant or in a manner that is consistent with the governance mechanism ONC establishes for the nationwide health information exchange. Measure 3) Conducts one or more successful electronic exchanges of summary of care document. Without precise patient identity standards, the exchange of these records can be compromised. Smart cards/with biometrics ensures a unique and absolute identity and that the patient’s identity is precisely the same wherever the patient receives care. This unique identity is the foundation for record exchange and eliminates the patient safety and financial risk of providers basing clinical decisions on the wrong patient record or patient records that have been incorrectly merged. It should be noted that the present demographic based patient identification techniques for health information exchange have a 5% error rate. I don’t think any patient wants to be included in that 5%. 2.  Smart cards with Biometrics eliminates duplicate records. Once implemented, every patient is issued a unique identity that is contained in the combination of [...]