The Very First Step in the Patient Care Process

The very first step in the patient care process is knowing who is sitting across the desk from you.

Errors Found Early in the Patient Care Process

Without accurate patient identification, it is impossible to have accurate, successful patient care. It seems like patient identification is a simple thing: a patient gives you their insurance card and photo id, then you look them up in your medical record system. But accurate patient identification can be – and often is – fraught with errors for a variety of reasons.

  • Registrars can be rushed during heavy workflow times.
  • Patients with foreign names are often misspelled on initial entry.
  • Patients don’t always present with the same version of their name; Robert one time, Bob the next time.
  • In a large healthcare system, patients with common names like Maria Garcia, can literally have hundreds of patients with the same name and even the same birthdate.

A study on duplicate error rates by Johns Hopkins University found that 92% of duplicate records happened at registration. Since the healthcare industry has transitioned to digital health records, patient misidentification has become a widespread problem that carries significant consequences – particularly for patient care and the hospital’s financial performance. Patient misidentification can result in medical errors, financial loss, loss in clinical productivity and a negative impact on the patient experience.

A recent survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute, the “2016 National Patient Identification Report,” cited the following errors as very common in most healthcare facilities:

  • Inability to find a patient’s chart or medical record (68 percent of respondents)
  • A search or query resulting in multiple or duplicate medical records for that patient (67 percent)
  • A patient is associated with an incorrect record because of the same name and/or date of birth (56 percent)
  • The wrong record is pulled up for a patient because another record in the registration system or EMR has the same name and/or date of birth (61 percent)

These problems can be clearly traced back to poor patient identification at the beginning of patient care process.

The Lasting Damages of a Single Medical Identity Fraud Case

Unfortunately, misidentifying a patient can lead to more than just clerical mistakes. In many cases, medical errors or other adverse events like medical identity fraud can arise. Reports indicate that 2.3 million individuals were impacted by medical identity theft in 2014, an increase of 21.7% from 2013. Unlike most cases of credit card fraud, victims of medical identity theft can suffer serious financial consequences after the very first incident. The average out-of-pocket cost of a single medical identity theft case is $13,450. Based on this statistic, medical identity theft is estimated to cost the healthcare industry over 30 billion dollars every year.

Download "Why Does Medical Identity Fraud Still Happen?"

Steps to Improving the Patient Care Process

Successfully completing the first step in the patient care process is possible when providers set up an absolute healthcare identity for the patient during the registration process. This can be done most reliably by using a combination of biometric patient identification and smart card technology. Together, these systems offer extra security, convenience, and peace of mind to both the patient and healthcare staff. With absolute healthcare identification, patients can move through the healthcare system seamlessly, secure in the knowledge that the right healthcare record is being presented to their care provider.

In addition to implementing absolute identification processes, healthcare organizations should conduct clinician and administrator training programs that highlight the common errors made in patient registration. By emphasizing which errors and processes are unreliable, organizations can help eradicate patient misidentification.

To learn more about how absolute healthcare identification supports the patient care process, contact our team today.

About the Author:

Debra Fryar is a blogger for Privasent and advocate for proper patient identification in a new age of healthcare tech.

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