patient identifier

Another industry expert in favor of an effective patient identifier

It has been a long, continuous, and never-ending fight for the unique patient identifier which has not been without its own share of controversies. At the moment, Congress is thinking about whether it should give the green signal regarding the financing of a unique patient identifier to be used across the health systems and hospitals in the US. Now, Julie Dooling, another prominent healthcare expert of the American Healthcare Information Management Association (AHIMA), has given her views regarding how an effective patient identification platform can change the game. Such a solution can generate accurate patient identifications with the existing electronic health records within any hospital that aims at helping and improving patient safety as well as to eliminate any detected fraud in the process. Thankfully, such a solution exists- more on that later.

patient identifier

Patient matching- how hard could it be. That’s what may come to the minds of many. However, the truth is precisely the opposite when it comes to matching patients to their actual records, let alone duplicates which may be exceptionally complicated and thereby, making the failure rate to be quite significant. Moreover, according to Ms. Dooling, 8-12% of errors exist due to the duplicate records created for the same patient. Here is where the patient identification solution will come into play and it will identify the correct records for the patients every time, according to her.

However, it is not only AHIMA- a lot of health systems, hospitals, as well as other prominent healthcare organizations have been clamoring for a solution and are thus demanding for the abolishment of the archaic ban on funding and researching for a unique patient identifier by the Department of Health and Human Services which could be used nationwide.

HIPAA came into effect in 1996 and had a prerequisite for making reliable patient identification systems so that meaningful health information could be generated. However, as said multiple times, privacy concerns were cited by many parties, which ultimately led to the restriction in the development and funding for a national patient identifier. The opposition reasoned that medical records would be exposed and cybercriminals could steal data.

Another industry expert in favor of an effective patient identifier
Another industry expert in favor of an effective patient identifier

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However, that did ultimately happen, and we see news regarding such cybercrimes every day. Also, fraudulent activities are quite common regarding the health information of patients. Ms. Dooling says that the consequences of privacy concerns such as healthcare fraud, which were given as reasons for not opting for a UPI, are happening even without its existence. Ms. Dooling also added that if a UPI is to be made, as everyone is clamoring for it now, it will take a lot of effort since it has to be nationwide and also should have interoperability, which is the primary concern. She also stated her concern regarding privacy issues; they would not be collecting Social Security Numbers so that the people can heave a sigh of relief regarding this matter.

Funding, researching, and creating such a solution would take a lot of time and resources. However, what if such a solution exists? Wouldn’t it be that much more feasible? Fortunately, such an exact solution exists.

A lot of health systems are already using RightPatient, which was made with accurate patient identification in mind. It is a biometric patient identification platform that locks the patient records with the biometric data of the patients. Once a patient registers their biometric data using RightPatient, it gets attached to their EHRs, and they can be identified within seconds whenever they visit the hospital. Also, this reduces medical identity theft and the medical records cannot be accessed without the biometric data of the patients, which can be irises or fingerprints. Likewise, health systems are using RightPatient to reduce denied claims as well, since they are eliminating patient misidentifications within their premises. It improves patient safety, enhances revenue cycle, and reduces millions of losses while saving both lives and money in the process. It does fit the bill for being a UPI since it is a tried and tested solution for accurate patient identification.

Source: Making the Case for National Unique Patient ID

patient identifier in healthcare

Why should the Senate choose biometrics as a unique patient identifier?

Unique patient identifiers have been talked about several times, not only in this space but also everywhere else in the US- especially quite recently. This is because there have been positive signs which might finally grant the health systems and hospitals alike with the mythical unique patient identifier, which is sorely needed in the healthcare industry for positive patient identification. But why is it so badly needed? What are the problems faced due to patient misidentification? What will be the benefits? What can be a viable unique patient identifier in healthcare? Let’s explore these questions.

 patient identifier in healthcare

One does not need even to imagine losing someone close and dear due to patient misidentification- these stories have been all over the news for years, and there’s no stopping them, unfortunately. Whenever you turn on the television or watch healthcare-related news on your smartphone or tablet, you’ll see at least one problem which has been caused by patient misidentification. It might be medical ID theft, insurance fraud, patient mix-up, a denied claim, or in extreme cases, death. These are just some of the real-life examples which have occurred over the years and are also very valid reasons why a proper patient identification system should be in place for health systems all over the US. For instance, there was once a case where a patient was misidentified and was denied care due to the wrong medical record being pulled. Or, take the opioid crisis- an addictive medication can inadvertently be suggested to patients who are addicts. 

These are scenarios that could have easily been avoided if only the patients were identified accurately and matched with their appropriate records. Over one hundred health systems are already doing that, but more on that later. Thanks to the recent talks regarding UPIs, the US Senate has a unique chance to do something about it and save lives as well as healthcare costs. It has the opportunity to do that when the members get to vote on Senate Fiscal Year 2020 Labor, Health & Human Services, & Education & Related Agencies Appropriations bill. Back in June, positive news spread throughout the news portals that the House of Representatives passed an amendment regarding the removal of the old ban on the creation of an effective UPI that can be used across the health systems of the US. However, everything now rests on the US Senate to make this a reality by creating a UPI or adopting something across the lines which have been helping to identify patients accurately.

What happened previously?

It has been around twenty years since the previous talks regarding unique patient identifiers occurred, which have resulted in zero progress. This has caused major problems regarding patient misidentification like medical errors, as well as insurance fraud, medical ID theft, and in extreme cases, and deaths of unfortunate patients. Earlier, patient misidentifications were overlooked, but recently, everyone recognizes it as a serious threat to patient safety- even a prominent entity like the ECRI institute has listed patient misidentification as one of the biggest impediments to effective patient safety.

Why should the Senate choose biometrics as a unique patient identifier?
Why should the Senate choose biometrics as a unique patient identifier?

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However, that’s not all. The absence of a proper patient identification system also causes problems for healthcare providers, as well. As previously mentioned, insurance frauds, as well as denied claims, and increased losses are quite common issues for health systems, hospitals, and physician practices, as well as ACOs. Conventional EHRs have also shown an absence of interoperability, due to which the healthcare providers cannot share the same information regarding the same patient who may need to go to different health systems for various ailments.

Some statistics

A study conducted in 2016 states that patient misidentification costs any given healthcare provider approximately $17.4 million yearly, as a result of denied claims, thus cutting down their revenue. According to the study, the more pressing issue is that these misidentifications not only cause losses but also hamper patient safety. The same survey states that 26% of the sample had witnessed a medical error firsthand or at least have known about it, which were generated by misidentifications.

What should be the unique patient identifier in healthcare?

Thus, it is seen how vital an effective patient identification system is for the healthcare industry. But what should the Senate choose as a unique patient identifier in healthcare and why? RightPatient is the answer. It is a biometric patient identification system that over one hundred respectable health systems are using, such as Novant Health, Duke Health, UMC, and TGMC. All of them are providing the same feedback- better patient experience, enhanced patient safety, and improved patient matching, all of which lead to reduced duplicate medical records as well as reduced insurance fraud. A patient only needs to register into RightPatient using their biometric data like their fingerprints or irises- afterward, they are identified within seconds, and their appropriate medical record is pulled from the EHR system. Thus, RightPatient seems like the perfect candidate to be a unique patient identifier in healthcare since it has the capability as well as the experience and proven track record to be one.

effective-patient-identifier

Why a Unique Patient Identifier is so important in the healthcare industry?

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.

effective-patient-identifier

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.

Why a Unique Patient Identifier is so important in the healthcare industry?
Why a Unique Patient Identifier is so important in the healthcare industry?

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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.

doctor treating patient for better patient outcomes

Seven strategies ACOs use for better patient outcomes and lower costs

According to recent studies, it is expected that Medicare’s projected spending will be well over $1.5 trillion by the year 2028- that is more than double what the value was just two years ago! All Medicare asks from ACOs are better patient outcomes.

doctor treating patient for better patient outcomes

Many ACOs have already reduced costs and thus saved Medicare approximately $1 billion during 2013-2015. Not only did they reduce costs, but they also improved quality across the majority of the metrics required by Medicare. These exemplary ACOs depended on primary care visits, which they used to reduce ER visits and in turn, cut costs by around $700 per patient. 

Some of the strategies which ACOs can follow to improve their healthcare spending patterns and generate better patient outcomes are: 

Collaborate with the physicians they work with

ACOs highlighted the fact that one of the ways to enhance the quality of healthcare as well as reduce the costs was to work closely with the assigned physicians. They also stated that these physicians are usually ordering services like lab tests for the patients or referring to other specialists without keeping the costs in check, and may inadvertently end up incurring more costs than necessary. However, if the physicians and ACOs collaborated frequently, the former can make informed decisions regarding the costs which will be beneficial for both the patients as well as the ACOs by reducing costs while keeping quality in check. Other than that, the physicians have to be busy with administrative issues, which can be quite hectic for them, which causes them to focus more on these tedious tasks rather than focusing on the patients. ACOs can collaborate with the physicians regarding these issues, as well, to reduce the time spent on such matters and focus more on the patients instead.

Encourage the patients to take initiatives regarding their health

A common yet effective strategy used not only by ACOs but by any health system is to encourage their patients to take charge of their health and adopt a better, more active lifestyle. However, ACOs are reporting that this can be quite challenging, especially if there are multiple physicians which is common in ACOs. What ACOs can do is adopt the strategy used by conventional health systems- use patient engagement apps like CircleCare. It has all the necessary features required for active patient engagement. Patients can track not only their steps but also keep track of their blood pressure, blood glucose level, schedule medicine reminders, and so on. It helps patients to maintain even the most complex medication routines as well as encourages them to lead a healthier lifestyle. However, these are not the only features of such apps, as will be explored further down the line.

Seven strategies ACOs use for better patient outcomes and lower costs

Patient Retention App

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Emphasize on patients requiring extra care

Care coordinators are professionals who are entrusted to make sure that the patients requiring extra care receive it, especially when they are discharged along with their proper medication as well as necessary materials. Nearly all the ACOs utilize such personnel who even help schedule follow-ups. However, ACOs can also use CircleCare in this context for better care, since these apps help patients and these caregivers to stay connected and exchange health information easily, perhaps about minor complications and so on. 

Reduce ER visits and readmission rates

Most ACOs face the problems of ER (emergency room) visits which in turn generate hospital readmissions, many of which are preventable. However, it is notably more of a concern for ACOs since they are fined based on the readmission rates. One strategy ACOs can use is providing digital solutions to patients such as patient engagement apps like CircleCare. Since these apps push the patients to be physically active, these can create better patient outcomes- the more active the patient, the healthier they will be. Also, since these apps have two-way communication facilities, they can contact their physicians regarding any minor health issues and resolve them outside the ACO premises, thus, reducing ER visits.

Enhance patient identification and data sharing

Patient identification is one of the major problems of the US healthcare system, and it is a massive concern for ACOs as well- they need to share patient data among themselves, and the data needs to be as immaculate and consistent as possible. Thus, ACOs can overcome the issues with conventional EHRs by using biometric patient identification solutions like RightPatient. It uses iris scanning to accurately identify the patients and match them with their appropriate records within seconds. This will improve the match rates as well as enhance the patient experience along with data sharing, which are all must-have features for any ACO as these lead to better patient outcomes.

Make sure medication adherence among patients is present

According to statistics, two-thirds of the prescribed patients are non-adherent regarding their medications. This generates 50% of treatment failures, causing up to 125,000 preventable deaths per year in the US. These could have been prevented if the patients were adherent to their medications, and for that, CircleCare is the perfect solution. Its medicine reminder makes medication adherence as easy as it gets- the patients using the app can set the type, color, look, frequency, dosage, starting/ending date, and duration through an intuitive yet simple interface. Even the most complex regimens become manageable due to CircleCare, ensuring medication adherence and thus fewer ER visits for ACOs.

Ensure patient education is provided

Patient education is another problem which generates frequent ER visits as well as hospital readmissions. Most patients have minimal knowledge regarding their health- 50% of them experience difficulty in understanding as well as using health information and 40% of them do not remember most of the information in the first place. CircleCare provides meaningful and easy to understand information for patients, customized according to their health conditions so that they can receive the latest knowledge regarding their health and make informed decisions if required. Moreover, it also provides general health tips regarding food and physical activities, which can help patients follow those tips for a better lifestyle and better patient outcomes.

physician burnout

Physician burnout is a multi-billion dollar problem because of EHRs

Well, the cat’s out of the bag now. EHR (electronic health record) systems are not only causing problems for patients, insurance companies, and healthcare providers, but also among another critical player in the healthcare industry- the physicians. According to new research, this new problem- physician burnouts- are associated with EHR systems, and causes losses starting from $2 billion to an outrageous $6 billion annually. That is an obscene amount of money lost. Moreover, the researchers also gave an estimated amount of $4 billion lost due to lower productivity, physician turnovers, as well as other aspects relevant to burnout.

physician burnout

Other findings of the research demonstrate that a single physician employed by the healthcare provider generates an estimated amount of $7,000 in burnout costs per year for the hospital. However, that is an average estimate, as the cost can be as low as almost $4,000 and can go up to $11,000, depending on the severity of the issues they face due to the burnout.

It can be seen quite clearly as to how the physicians are being affected adversely due to these burnouts- reduced work-life balance, reduced wellbeing, tremendous workloads, which ultimately lead to more mediocre quality of healthcare for the patients, thus, a loss for everyone concerned. However, the holistic view of the economic problems physician burnouts can cause is yet to be seen.

But what is burnout? It is pent-up stress which is built over time and creates a sense of physical and mental tiredness, low levels of accomplishments, and monotony- all of which is generated from a lot of work-related factors, primarily EHR related ones.

Thanks to this research, it is now known that not only do burnouts cause damages to physicians and patients, but also the healthcare providers’ financials. According to the researchers, the study did not consider indirect burnout related costs like reputational damage, disruption, and so on- the costs which added up to $4 billion are directly related to physician burnouts.

However, a positive thing which can be taken away from this study is that the estimated figure it gave is quite lower than previously conducted studies. A 2018 report claimed that burnouts incur losses of around $1.7 billion per year, physician turnover costs are as much as $17 billion per annum, while nurse burnouts cost $9 billion per year. 

Physician burnout is a multi-billion dollar problem because of EHRs
Physician burnout is a multi-billion dollar problem because of EHRs

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Industry pundits estimate that almost half of the physicians suffer burnouts, with an AMA study claiming that 44% of physicians suffered from at least one symptom of burnout in 2017. Another aspect is physician burnouts influence some individuals more than the rest, citing that females are more likely to face burnouts as well as those individuals who are at larger, more prominent health systems since they face more pressure.

But why are the physicians facing such burnouts? Most physicians have reported that they have to click through the EHR interface thousands of times every day, going through several layers of EHRs, searching for patient data and matching them with the patients instead of focusing on the patients themselves and providing the services they signed up for. Thus, the immense pressure they face, especially if they are from larger, more complex health systems, as well as administrative tasks, all contribute towards physician burnouts and hampers patient care as well as the healthcare industry as a whole.

How does RightPatient fit here? Well, it matches the patients with their electronic health records, so that the physicians do not have to. RightPatient is a biometric patient identification system which uses iris scanning to detect the patients and match them with their proper EHR. Patient matching has never been easier, as all the patient needs to do is to look at the camera, and they are identified quickly. RightPatient integrates seamlessly with major EHR systems and thus is used by over a hundred health systems, effectively combating physician burnouts. It also reduces patient matching errors as well as enhances patient safety and reduces losses caused by burnouts as well as identification errors, as reported by its users. 

unique patient identifier

Unique patient identifier is what everyone is demanding for patient safety

Patient identification errors are nothing new– everyone in the U.S. knows what it is and by now how it is affecting those who are unfortunate enough to be misidentified, thanks to the numerous reports, surveys, and researches conducted regarding this topic. However, what everyone is now demanding thanks to all these studies is a unique patient identifier.

unique patient identifier

Let’s jog our memories for a moment. Patient identification errors have been abundant in the healthcare industry since its inception. However, these patient matching errors are at an all-time high now, thanks to EHR related issues like unintuitive interfaces, interoperability issues, and low patient match rates within the systems themselves. It is quite problematic for the healthcare providers as patient misidentification causes losses of millions of dollars per year and problems like physician burnouts due to unintuitive EHR systems. But that’s not all; patients suffer, as well – financially, physically, or both- they very likely may receive the wrong treatment, undergo incorrect surgical procedures, and in some cases, may face death. It is a multibillion-dollar issue of the healthcare system and causes suffering to everyone who comes into contact with it like a plague. In the early days, nobody used to pay much attention to this, but now, thanks to numerous reports, statistics, and data available to the public, everyone knows how much of a problem inaccurate patient identification is.

However, recent developments seem to point to a brighter future for patients and healthcare providers alike. CHIME, also known as College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) members pushed the US Senate to demolish the ancient ban regarding a unique patient identifier which could be used nationwide, following the House of Representatives’ decision.

Key individuals from reputed organizations like CHIME and AHIMA, which are full of healthcare IT experts, demonstrated to Congress the benefits of demolishing this ban on a unique patient identifier. The abolishment of this ban would result in the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services to work in tandem with private organizations to research and find a unique patient identifier which will help to create accurate patient identification while keeping in mind patient privacy- or does it exist already?

However, the supporters for lifting the ban were not only AHIMA and CHIME- the American College of Surgeons as well as the American Medical Informatics Association chimed in as well, no pun intended. Jointly, they all demonstrated to the Senate the current challenges they face due to patient misidentification and what types of problems the patients might face due to these errors like wrong treatments, financial losses, and so on. Adding to the list was incomplete patient data in EHRs and duplicate records, as well, which results in the reduction of data integrity. A recognized healthcare professional stated that the employees of health systems have the first-hand experience of seeing the implications of patient matching errors and how it adversely affects not only the patients, but also their families. He further said that inaccurate patient matching is one of the sole reasons for hampering patient safety as well as generating extremely high costs, falling in line with all the studies and statistics related to patient matching errors. To put things into perspective, a single patient matching error costs around $1000-$5000 to fix, depending on the complexity of the issue for any given healthcare provider. All this is happening while everyone within the industry as well the Congress is doing their very best to reduce healthcare expenses. However, this will only be possible nationwide if the ban is demolished, and a unique patient identifier is selected.

Unique patient identifier is what everyone is demanding for patient safety
Unique patient identifier is what everyone is demanding for patient safety

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But why has everyone been so late to tackle this issue? Well, they weren’t – it was addressed before, but was dismissed. Decades ago, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) required a unique patient identifier for utilizing its full potential, but it did not materialize due to privacy concerns. Rules were later added, which banned the HHS from developing a unique patient identifier using federal funds. It has come full circle, as everyone is clamoring for a unique patient identifier now.

However, let’s go back to the past again. As healthcare providers were rapidly adopting EHR systems, they were also experiencing the many problems associated with using them. Thus, they had to resort to other methods to accurately identify their patients, decreasing their reliance on EHR systems.

What should be the unique patient identifier?

Everyone related to the healthcare industry is urging for the creation of a unique patient identifier. What if it exists right now? Over a hundred health systems are using RightPatient – a biometric patient identification system. RightPatient focuses on iris scanning, which is beneficial for everyone involved – it eliminates any risk of catching diseases as it is a non-contact modality and is very easy to use for the patients. All a patient needs to do is look at the camera, and the patient is quickly and accurately matched with his or her health record. It is also reducing losses for its users by reducing denied claims. The health systems have also been reporting promising results like improved patient safety, and enhanced patient experience. It is also causing fewer physician burnouts – they can focus on the patients rather than spending time matching the patients with their EHRs, because RightPatient does it for them. Thus, as such a tried and tested solution as RightPatient exists, it seems to be a viable candidate for being the unique patient identifier of the U.S. healthcare industry.

patient identification errors

Patient identification errors are the most common EHR generated issues

According to a recent survey, patient identification errors are the most common problems caused by EHRs; thus, jeopardizing patient safety and causing a rise in patient harm. This phenomenon is not unexpected, as there have been numerous cases, studies, and research stating the exact thing – patient identification errors cost organizations greatly.

patient identification errors

Researchers who conducted this study did so with the claims submitted to official databases regarding EHR systems, and with this data, they detected the most frequent errors which cause patient harm and are directly related to EHRs.

According to the researchers, the information they found while carrying out the study was meaningful as it provided enough evidence to the fact that the usage of EHR systems has negative consequences. Also, the complaints they found showed that in extreme cases, EHRs could be correlated to severe consequences for patients, sometimes even resulting in deaths.

According to the study, 31% of claims consisted of medication errors, and the same number was found for claims regarding treatment complications. This can be traced back to patient identification errors- they are provided with wrong treatment plans or wrong medications thanks to either duplicate records or mix-ups. Another finding was that the number of errors occurring in outpatient facilities was higher than those occurring in inpatient services. 

Another interesting fact is that in the study, these errors occurred due to human mistakes more than the errors caused by the system – 63% were user errors, while the rest were system related issues. Problems caused by the systems refer to several things like the general interface of the EHR, which can be clunky and unintuitive. For instance, there were numerous reports of physicians not being able to access the information on time which caused delays in treatment procedures. Human errors can range from creating duplicate records, as the hospital staff could not find the accurate medical record and created a new, redundant one, to misidentifying a patient and causing record mix-ups. In any case, regardless of the errors being caused by humans or the system itself, patient misidentifications are extremely dangerous and pose a threat to all individuals who are on the receiving end of healthcare services. This statement is supported by another fact – 80% of these EHR related errors caused severe patient safety issues. However, the researchers believed that the inpatient cases were more likely to be fatal when compared to the outpatient ones, citing that outpatient patients arrive with minor ailments in the first place, thus, are less likely to be harmed.

Patient identification errors are the most common EHR generated issues
Patient identification errors are the most common EHR generated issues

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In the concluding part of the study, the researchers said that patient safety could be severely jeopardized at any healthcare setting and circumstance, especially if the patients are misidentified – only adding more complexities to deal with. Lack of interoperability, design issues, unintuitive systems, and lack of alarms over duplicate records only contribute to more errors.

So, how are health systems dealing with these patient misidentification issues generated by EHRs? Most of them are struggling with it. EHRs were introduced in the ‘90s and were made with the vision to go paperless and completely digital, improving the patient experience. While EHRs did accomplish some of those goals, it gave birth to duplicate records, mix-ups, and with no data standardization or interoperability, there seems to be no escape from this. Thanks to studies like these, this overlooked issue has grabbed the attention of most of the leading health systems of the US, and many are now clamoring for a solution or a unified patient identification system. While the latter is still far away from happening, the former is already available. Over one hundred health systems are using RightPatient – a biometric patient identification solution. It focuses on iris scanning to make sure that identification is hygienic (non-contact), quick, accurate, and easy to use; patients only need to look at the camera, and they are identified. The users are reporting promising results, like increased patient safety, enhanced patient experience, and reduced losses which previously occurred due to misidentifications and denied claims, creating a favorable environment and a win-win situation for all.

biometrics-helping-with-patient-identification

Another one added to the endless list of patient misidentifications stories

Another day, another one added to the endless patient misidentifications stories– makes the need for an effective patient identification solution like RightPatient even more urgent. 

biometrics-helping-with-patient-identification

However, medical record mix-ups occurred even before EHRs were implemented. Years ago, a woman called Liz Tidyman’s parents decided to spend more time with their daughter and grandchildren, and thus moved close to their home. While they did so, they carried everything important with them, especially the hard copies of their medical records (EHRs did not exist back then).

Exactly two days after the parents moved in with Liz, the father unfortunately fell. Since this has never happened before, the family was concerned, and they took him to a hospital for a checkup. While sitting in the waiting room, Liz took out her father’s medical record right on time, or else there would have been some grave consequences in store for the family. As Liz went through her father’s health record, she saw some abnormalities- there were numerous pages regarding the medical history of an entirely different person. The only thing Liz could associate with her father was the name of the other patient, everything else regarding the medical history was unrecognizable by Liz- the other patient had much more complex problems than her father did. At that instant, she took out those irrelevant pages about the mistaken patient and decided that she will always double-check such sensitive records, medical or otherwise, in the foreseeable future.

This was just one story, and that too before the introduction of EHRs and the mess they created. There are many such stories and incidents before and after EHRS which have created the billion-dollar problem- patient misidentifications. These have also led to numerous patient misidentifications stories, due to which everyone is taking it seriously now.  

Another one added to the endless list of patient misidentifications stories
Another one added to the endless list of patient misidentifications stories

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No patient, old or young, is safe from patient matching errors, but since the older ones are less comfortable with technology, they need to be more careful regarding their medical records. According to a healthcare official, one out of ten patients who have seen their records say that there are inconsistencies and demand corrections. This is not really surprising, given the number of problems we read about everyday regarding patient identification. For instance, some patients may see that inaccurate medical test results, treatment plans, or diagnoses have been attached to their medical records, raising doubts regarding what else is mixed up with other patients. However, this actually happened with Liz’s father as well.

When asked about kidney cancer, Liz’s father denied he had it. Afterward, Liz viewed the materials and realized that the mix-up was due to the name, and it was listed kidney cancer instead of skin cancer, the latter which her father actually had. Likewise, omissions, patient mix-ups, and duplicate records create all kinds of ruckus and devastate families, end the lives of individuals and cause losses in millions of dollars. This has been the scenario for years, and EHRs did not fix them, they only amplified the problems further.

Health systems have finally begun to address how serious of an issue patient misidentifications can be, thanks to the endless pile of patient misidentifications stories. While some hospitals are struggling with using only EHRs for patient identification, others are clamoring for an effective solution to end these patient matching errors. However, other advanced and forward-thinking healthcare providers opted for RightPatient– a biometric patient identification system. It uses the iris scanning modality to identify the patients. Once the hospitals enroll the patients with RightPatient, they can be recognized and matched with their records easily and conveniently, all it needs is a look at the camera- it’s that easy! Patient acceptance to RightPatient has been high as well since they perceive it as safe and hygienic- no physical contact required; thus, no risks of contracting any diseases. RightPatients helps in saving the lives of patients and reducing denied claims and ultimately saving money along the way. 

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Importance of patient identification and EHRs- What you need to know

When it was at its introductory stage, the official representatives had stated that medical records going digital and becoming electronic health records (EHRs) would change the healthcare system of the US entirely. They said that EHRs would be the future of the healthcare industry as they will be safe, inexpensive, and easy to use, with a focus on the importance of patient identification. They were leaving conventional paper records in the dust. They were right- partially. EHRs did change the healthcare industry as we know it, it did prove to be the future, and it did make paper records obsolete, only not in the way everyone thought it would. Almost a decade later, EHRs have created abundant problems in the healthcare industry– for patients, health systems, insurance providers, and everyone else involved with it. Moreover, the biggest challenge it caused is patient misidentification, which is a multibillion-dollar burning issue, and presently, everyone is clamoring for a viable solution for the errors caused by EHRs.

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These are some findings by a study which highlights some of the biggest problems of patient misidentifications via EHRs. 

Patient safety

The most obvious and most dangerous problem caused by EHRs is reducing patient safety- EHRs, since their introduction they have created several issues which compromise patient safety. Innumerous incidents have been reported including as wrong treatment, wrong surgeries, even deaths and many more, all of which lead back to software issues, errors, bugs or flaws of EHRs and how it misidentifies patients. We have read many stories of how EHR misidentifications have led to surgeries of wrong patients, or how they have caused financial losses for patients, or, in unfortunate cases, deaths. It has been years that EHRs have become standardized, but there are no efforts to fix these problems within the EHRs to improve patient safety. The importance of patient identification has been underestimated which is why these problems occurred. 

Medical identity theft 

The next issue caused by patient misidentifications is fraudulent activities. EHRs can be tricked since no unique patient identifier exists in the US, which can verify the authenticity of the patient. This fact is commonly known, and due to this, many miscreants can attempt to fool the system and officials and commit medical identity theft, healthcare fraud and many other unlawful activities with the patient ID and get away with it. Such incidents cause financial losses for the patients whose IDs are stolen, and it can also be used for more nefarious purposes like obtaining unprescribed drugs to consume or sell them, and events like these have caused the opioid crisis.

Importance of patient identification and EHRs- What you need to know
Importance of patient identification and EHRs- What you need to know

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Interoperability issues

When EHRs were introduced, it was expected that given it will be completely digital, there will be some form of seamless integration of the data which can be accessed by a patient’s different healthcare providers. However, fast forward a decade, and the reality is entirely the opposite. Forget about obtaining the same data around the nation. Research has shown that even after using the same EHR system, two different healthcare systems cannot also match a patient correctly, as the match rates are as low as 50%. Thus, information exchange is next to impossible with EHRs, which is why there are so many interoperability seminars being held nowadays.

Physician burnouts

Many doctors have reported dissatisfaction with EHRs, as they spend almost half their day clicking on the system and inputting data to match the patients instead of interacting with the patients themselves. This is problematic not only for the physicians but for the patients too, as more time is spent on EHRs rather than patients. Even then, patients sometimes cannot be accurately matched with their health records.

How to fix these errors?

EHRs’ biggest problem is patient misidentification, and that itself causes all of the above issues. Everyone in the US healthcare learned the importance of patient identification the hard way. However, for the past few years, many have tried to come up with innovative solutions to combat patient matching errors, but the best one is RightPatient– a biometric patient identification solution. It uses the iris scanning modality to ensure a safe, hygienic, and convenient way to detect the patients accurately. Since there is no necessity for physical contact, a look at the camera is enough for identification, and patients find this extremely convenient and easy to use. Once a hospital registers a patient with their proper EHR via RightPatient, he/she can be identified by their biometrics only, which improves patient safety and provides an exceptional patient experience, as per the reports of the hundreds of health systems who are currently using RightPatient to eliminate patient matching errors and saving millions in the process.

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Healthcare’s most significant issue- Improving patient safety

Whenever medical records do not match with patients and are out of sync, all kinds of problems occur for everyone involved, both physically and financially. Keeping this in mind, patient matching errors seem never-ending. Is there a solution? Is there anything which will help in improving patient safety?

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A look at what patient matching errors are capable of

Let us see an example to understand the gravity of the situation presented by patient misidentifications. In the year 2016, a mistakenly identified patient’s kidney was already taken out, and by the time the doctor realized that the patient had no tumor, it was already too late. This disaster had occurred due to mix-ups of test results of patients sharing the same name. This incident was kept under wraps until government officials looked into the issue to know precisely what happened, and it became public knowledge. However, most people, as usual, thought that this blunder was one in a million cases. It was a blunder; however, it was not one in a million cases- it is a common scenario.

Such phenomenons occur almost every day within any given healthcare provider, big or small, all over the US. The hospital personnel very casually presume the EHRs they click on are the accurate ones which include patient data like history, diagnoses, test results, and so on. This type of behavior is reckless and can result in grave consequences for the patients.

This is sadly the most overlooked but one of the most dangerous problems the healthcare industry faces- patient misidentification. It is the worst kept secret of the industry and has been the talk of the industry by many groups for years. Now, the question on everyone’s minds is what is being done for improving patient safety?

Problems associated with patient safety issues

The most common type of patient matching errors faced by healthcare providers occurs when two patients have the same name. For instance, Samuel L. Jackson, S. E. Jackson, Samuel Luis Jackson, and Sam Jackson may indicate the same individual, but inadvertently, or to save time by not searching for the proper record, the hospital staff may have made four individual records for the patient. To make matters worse, this may not even be known by neither the doctor nor the patient while making treatment plans. Such duplicate records can lead to grave consequences as well- if they get merged, can lead to wrong treatments, medications, and sometimes even removal of completely healthy organs like the example above.

According to a recent study, one EHR out of five in a single healthcare provider is a duplicate record. That is not all; the problem only gets worse when different organizations try to share these EHRs. Even when two separate organizations share the same EHR software, match rates are only around 50%.

Healthcare's most significant issue- Improving patient safety
Healthcare's most significant issue- Improving patient safety

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Superior flexibility, power & ROI

What other problems arise from patient matching errors?

It is not just about patient safety, although it is the biggest concern of inaccurate patient matching. It is one of the costliest mistakes for any given healthcare system, as each correction of the records costs from $1000 to a whopping $5000, depending on the severity of the issue. Thus, this is a multibillion-dollar problem in the healthcare industry. Also, if there have been cases of patient matching errors, some healthcare providers recommend another round of medical tests to be sure.

There has also not been any national patient identifier other than EHRs, which is the cause of the patient matching errors in the first place. The problem lies with the fact that the healthcare providers decide what kind of information they want to keep and what to omit, as these create fragmentations regarding patient data. In other developed countries, this problem is tackled by a unique patient identifier, such as a number, so that even if the patients are sharing commonalities, it will be canceled out by the number which is unique for each patient. Unfortunately, the USA is the only first-world country without such an identifier due to privacy concerns back in 1996.

What is the solution for improving patient safety?

Many healthcare systems have waited it out for a proper patient identification solution which will work towards improving patient safety, and it looks like it paid off. Many healthcare providers are using solutions like RightPatient. It is a biometric patient identification system which utilizes iris scanning. Well-known health systems like Northwell Health are already using it and are reporting promising results. Patients love it, as they do not need to carry any IDs. All they need to do is look at the camera and get their irises authenticated, and it pulls their medical data from their EHRs, it is that easy. All of this saves time in the patient identification process. Also, it is safe and hygienic, as no physical touch is required; thus, no risk of diseases via contact. Hundreds of health systems are using RightPatient and are reiterating the same thing- enhanced patient safety, better patient experience, and reduced denied claims.