Let’s be honest with ourselves. Patient misidentification shouldn’t be an issue in a modern healthcare setting. With the amount of technology and data maintenance resources found in the average medical practice, how is that we lose track of patient names? And how can we stop doing it?

Here’s a new rule to follow: stop relying exclusively on patient demographics.

The Problem with Demographic Patient Identifiers

To put it simply, there’s too much room for error when it comes demographic information. These errors come from both sides of the desk. Patients may provide too little detail, or a nickname in place of their birthname, or some other variation on their personal information. Their address may have changed, or they neglected to update other account information. Intake staff, on the other hand, can make general data entry errors like typos, or breeze over information updates when they’re in a hurry.

If you’re trying to identify patients correctly, reliability and consistency are the most important components of the process. EHR implementation has helped to address those factors, but record creation in an EHR system doesn’t guard against errors like record duplication. While a single person having two records isn’t as severe as completely swapping their information for someone else’s, it still can pose severe problems for administering care. One of those records may contain notations about drug allergies, for example, while the other does not.

Instead of relying on easily-bungled background information about the patient, practices should begin incorporating a more unique and consistent resource: the patients themselves.

Biometrics, Possession, & Patient Identity

“Using the patient as their own verification method” is kind of an odd way to phrase it, but it’s a widely accepted form of authentication. This category of identification is more commonly called inherence, and it leverages confirmation of a unique physical characteristic of the user. Biometric analysis devices take samples of things like blood, fingerprints, retinal composition, or other unique biological measures.

Related Post: There’s a problem with using fingerprints as your authentication method in healthcare. Find out what it is – Read more >>

The biggest advantage of biometrics is that the information recorded and associated with a particular subject is near-impossible to replicate and attribute to another person. Fraudsters may have the ability to assume someone else’s identity with demographics just by being observant or doing some research. Fooling a biometrics system would require sophisticated technology or other resources that are unavailable to the average person.

In addition to biometrics, patient identification can be strengthened even further by incorporating a third level of authentication. The patient can be given a single copy of a physical “key.” Now they possess an assigned object unique to them. Modern devices such as encrypted keycards, or smart cards, are specifically engineered to prevent duplication without the proper technology. Short of physical theft or misplacement of the key, there are few scenarios where the use of these smart cards will result in misidentification.

Next Generation of Patient Protection

The aforementioned healthcare security technologies have been implemented in many medical facilities and research centers in recent years. Demand both from within the organization by information officers and from patient visitors to the facilities has led to the rise. The end goal of both parties is to improve the rate by which staff can identify patients correctly, leading to cost containment through error reduction and an improvement of patient loyalty and trust.

The strongest systems incorporate a combination of these security strategies. Take Privasent, for example, where the system utilizes both palm vein scanning (biometrics) and distribution of unique smart cards (possession), along with the conventional identifiers used in intake like name and date of birth. These combined techniques give both providers and patients peace of mind that every action taken is delivered to right patient, improving the overall care experience.

For more information on Privasent technology and the benefits of multi-factor authentication in healthcare, click here.
Interested in seeing Privasent up close? Contact our team for a no-risk consultation and demo of our palm vein scanner technology.