Last year, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) found that, on average, 10 percent of a health organization’s patient records are duplicates.

Why is this statistic so disturbing?

It means your organization is setting itself up to lose revenue. With any percentage of duplicates, the number of patient records in your system will not match the actual number of patients you serve. This skews patient population health metrics and impacts care plan compliance and overall patient outcomes.

Not only does it cause revenue problems, but the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) includes objectives for reducing duplicate records in its nationwide interoperability roadmap. This year, duplicate record rates are to be reduced from 2 percent, to 0.5 percent by 2020, and less than 0.1 percent by 2024.

A John’s Hopkins study titled, “Implementing and Sustaining Improvement in Healthcare” found that 92% of patient identity errors occur at the time of the registration process. The registration process is understandably complex and requires great attention to detail. However, a busy waiting room, unfamiliar temporary staff, or inadequate workflow procedures can result in duplicate records or complete patient misidentification.

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Common Sources of Patient Identity Errors

1. Process flaws within an organization

Many health organizations simply ask for verbal verification of name and birthday or photo identification, resources which can easily be obtained. Process flaws that allow the creation of duplicate records also pose risks to patient health. Relying on this misinformation from staff makes patient identity susceptible to human error, often enabling misidentification and medical identity theft.

2. Limited training on the importance of patient identification for new or temporary staff

The John’s Hopkins study determined that inadequate emphasis was placed on the process of patient identification in the registrar training materials. Standardized training material should be used throughout the healthcare organization.

3. Misspelling foreign names

Several studies (Bohensky et al., 2011b; Campbell, 2009; Duvall et all, 2010; Fournel et al.,2009) have indicated that matched Master Patient Index (MPI) file records with inpatient and outpatient medical records using probabilistic matching have more errors with foreign names.

They found that Hispanic, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Navajo and Arabic names were more likely to be false positives in their analyses of duplicate records. The authors suggested that it was likely that ethnic names, unfamiliar to registration clerks and other hospital staff, would have increased occurrences of misspellings. Also, the fields for each person’s name consisted of a first name, middle name, and last name, which may be unsuitable in many cultures.

4. Distracted or temporary staff confusing common names

In healthcare organizations with a large patient population, the chance of selecting the wrong patient with a similar name increases greatly. Kaiser Permanente of Southern California has over 10,000 records of people named Maria Gonzales.

These alarming facts provide even greater rationale for health systems to secure the “front door” and prevent invalid use of data and greater accuracy of the data collected. Each of these challenges can be overcome by enhancing the health service’s registration process—starting with a streamlined, standards-based, identity-proofing process.

Immediate Benefits of Correct Patient Identification

Correctly identifying patients and accurately matching them to their medical records across different healthcare settings is the key to bridging the legacy challenges within the current health system. Think of a health system without duplicate records, without medical identity theft, without payment fraud – yet one prepared to deterministically match patient records as part of a semantic, interoperable health data exchange ecosystem. Technology is evolving to capture and verify a patient’s identity and all associated records immediately upon admission by creating one “single and true” identity for all locations across the entire care continuum. These innovative solutions can help providers:

  • Reduce billing errors and collection problems associated with patient identity mistakes
  • Improve their capacity for clinical collaboration and assessment of clinical and financial risk
  • Eliminate errors in the MPI and other health record matching errors that jeopardize patient safety
  • Streamline the registration processes while boosting patient satisfaction and confidence
  • Abolish medical identity fraud and the associated bad debt write-offs

The industry can no longer engage in the expensive and inaccurate process of eliminating duplicate records through a back-end data reconciliation process. It’s already been unable to detect the errors that resulted in the $84 billion problem of medical identity theft. Otherwise preventable medical errors are caused by missing health information or accidentally merged patient records. Not only are duplicate records putting patients at risk, the results are impacting patient satisfaction and patient outcomes as well.

Without a comprehensive health IT solution to eliminate patient identity errors, there remains a continued risk for increased misdiagnoses, ineffective treatment plans and payment fraud.

Healthcare organizations must implement innovative, customized solutions that protect patient identity at each point in the continuum of care. The patient needs the ability to establish one identity across the continuum of care, regardless of the electronic health record (EHR) – a key component of full interoperability.

Even when identity-proofing standards are employed with biometric processes, this measure is primarily applied only within the silo of a specific delivery of care facility and not across multiple care settings. Privasent, which offers a unique combination of a smart card and a biometric identifier, can protect the patient’s identity at each point of care within in Healthcare system regardless of the Electronic Health Record system used and provides a Unique, Absolute and Interoperable Identity.

Find out more about how the system works, or request a demo of the Privasent system today.