Not a day goes by when we do not hear of patient identification errors– this has been plaguing the healthcare industry for a prolonged period of time; since the dawn of healthcare, patient misidentification has been present, and it still is, even to this very day. Accurate patient identification is of paramount importance – so much so, that it has forced the Joint Commission to prioritize patient identification as the first patient safety goal during 2014, and this has continued ever since. However, a unique patient identifier is yet to be found, funded, and determined due to privacy issues when it was first proposed.
Back when a unique patient identifier was initially proposed, it was thought to be integral for valid patient identification, since accurate patient matching will help reduce medical errors as well as costs incurred from misidentifications- speeding up the processes leading to improved and coordinated care. This is one of the reasons why UPIs are in the news again, regarding the abolishment of the ban on funds to create a unique patient identifier. However, this has yet to be processed, and it will be a long time into the future before it will see the light of day. Let’s focus on the here and now- what are these UPIs, and why are they so sought after? Let’s analyze.
If a standardized patient identification system were used nationwide, each patient would have a unique ID with which their healthcare providers, insurance companies, as well as other relevant parties will be able to identify the patients accurately, so that they would be able to manage all relevant information without mixing it up with someone else’s information. In times of necessity, this information can also be shared with other parties; for instance, if the patient goes to some other care provider. This can be done confidently and error-free using the unique patient identifier. These are only a few of the benefits of UPI. However, enjoying such benefits in the USA is still a dream.
The USA is one of the only developed countries in the world which does not utilize a UPI. The usage of UPIs varies from country to country; whenever the need has arisen, countries have implemented some form of UPI which could easily be used by everyone involved in the healthcare sector and sped up the identification process by simplifying it. However, it is badly needed in the US, and it looks like it is nowhere near being available shortly.
A single entity does not provide healthcare to an individual patient- it is a complex process where many parties are involved in providing healthcare services to the patients in exchange for their hard-earned money. Thus, it means that teamwork is very crucial in this industry so that the providers do not mix up the patients and provide consistent care.
From a patient’s perspective, it would be extremely beneficial for them if a standardized patient identification system is chosen which will be used to treat them, bill them, and apply for all other formalities, so that everything is concise and present at one place, and so that the same set of data is available whenever their records are brought up. This will also help increase coordinated care so that if a patient has multiple healthcare providers for his/her different ailments, everyone can access the same level of data. For instance, everyone can access the same set of test results, medical records, and other relevant data regarding the patient.
So, what can be a UPI? RightPatient seems to be a perfect candidate for becoming a unique patient identifier for the US healthcare system. It already has a lot of users, and all of them are reporting the same results- positive patient identification, enhanced patient safety, as well as improved patient experience. RightPatient focuses on biometrics, especially iris scanning, and once the patients are registered, all they need to do is look into the camera, and they are accurately matched with their medical records within seconds. A lot of health systems have used it to reduce losses by reducing misidentifications as well as insurance frauds. Not only does it speed up patient identifications, which earlier took forever, but it also cuts costs and helps save millions of dollars for the health systems using it.