hospital-data-breach-costs-millions

Hospital data breach results in an expensive lawsuit – Is yours next?

Hospital data breaches have been rampant for quite some years now. Last year’s figures alone are quite frightening- one states that 41 million patient records were exposed, essentially making the patients potential victims of medical identity theft. Thus, both data breaches and medical identity theft has been in the limelight. These unwanted nuisances have turned the attention towards healthcare providers who are suffering from these events. One such provider is the University of Missouri Health Care (MU Health), who suffered a data breach of 14 thousand records and also were hit by a lawsuit by the impacted patients.

This happened back in 2019. The provider was sued by patients who were affected by the breach in question. The patients reasoned that the breach had made their sensitive records prone to medical identity theft- their fear was not irrational.

hospital-data-breach-costs-millions

The actual story

On the first day of May 2019, the healthcare provider found out that an outsider somehow accessed email accounts of two employees for more than a week. Following the incident, the concerned officials said that they took the necessary steps to secure both accounts. 

It was not disclosed how the hacker got access and whether it was a phishing incident or not. However, the healthcare provider revealed that the affected account had sensitive patient data stored, such as names, DOB, medical record numbers, insurance details, as well as treatment details. The hospital data breach even consisted of the Social Security Numbers of some unlucky patients.

The data breach, fortunately, did not affect all the patients of MU Health. However, it did affect around 14,400 patients, which is no small number. As soon as the provider’s inquiry ended regarding the breach on the twenty-seventh day of July, it started to inform the patients regarding the breach. Oddly, the organization notified the patients after the required timeframe of 60 days as per HIPAA regulations.

The aftermath

Within the same week of notifying the patients, one of them filed a lawsuit, followed by 19 others. Their reason was very simple- the data breach would likely result in medical identity theft and lead to lower-quality care. The patients also believed that they were paying quite an amount of money, and thus, MU Health should add stringent security with their services.

Hospital data breach results in an expensive lawsuit - Is yours next?
Hospital data breach results in an expensive lawsuit - Is yours next?

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

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Hospital data breaches can arm hackers with enough information to obtain medical services assigned to the patients. The hackers could either expose the data, sell it, or use it for themselves. These could lead to the patients paying for healthcare services they did not avail. These could also become denied claims for healthcare providers. Whichever way one looks at it, data breaches and medical identity theft is extremely undesirable. 

How do hospitals prevent medical identity theft?

Although it is quite prevalent nowadays, medical identity theft can actually be prevented. One way to make sure that the medical records are safe is by locking them with a key that hackers cannot forge. That is exactly what RightPatient does. It is a biometric patient identification platform that locks the patient records with their biometric data. Once the platform attaches the medical record with the data during enrollment, a third party cannot come and claim that record, preventing medical identity theft and ensuring accurate patient identification. RightPatient has been preventing medical identity theft for leading hospitals such as University Health Care System and Grady Health System.

patient-identification-system-helps-reduce-opioid-crisis

How to identify patients with opioid abuse or addiction treatment?

Addiction to opioids is a serious problem that is plaguing society. As a result, treatment of this needs to be taken as soon as possible because it becomes very difficult to overcome this,  at later stages. Attending opioid drug treatment centers in Columbus Ohio is the best way to stay away from the addiction of opioids and recover completely. There you will get the best assistance and guidance from the experts that force you to defeat your craving for taking opioids. It is very difficult to control your urge at your home. But in these places, you can easily quit your bad habits. The reason being, in rehab centers, you get chances to meet like-minded people who also want to quit their opioid habits.

Common signs to identify patients with opioid abuse

  • The inability to control opioid use
  • Uncontrollable cravings
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent flu-like symptoms
  • Decreased libido
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Changes in exercise habits
  • Isolation from family or friends
  • Stealing from family, friends or businesses
  • New financial difficulties

patient-identification-system-helps-reduce-opioid-crisis

How can biometric patient identification help detect and prevent a patient’s opioid addiction?

In today’s world, a biometric patient identification platform is one of the best and secure way to identify patient’s data integrity. Global healthcare has moved away from its dependence on paper-based therapeutic studies toward the use of electronic health records (EHR). 

So if you or your loved one is abusing opioids, by using a biometric patient identification platform like RightPatient, hospitals can easily identify the patient’s addiction towards opioids. It can red-flag once they go through the identification process, detecting whether they are assuming someone else’s identity or not to attain the drugs. Several hospitals are using RightPatient to improve revenue cycle, enhance patient safety, and reduce the creation of duplicate records as well. 

Here, we have mentioned some benefits of utilizing this to instantly identify patients’ data integrity that includes:

  • Detailed and up-to-date data at the time of service
  • Highly coordinated and effective care
  • Safe sharing of patient information among doctors
  • More infrequent medical mistakes
  • More reliable prescribing practices

These advantages depend on clinicians, hospitals, and other healthcare departments to carefully test patient identifications during all therapeutic encounters. 

If you or your loved one is addicted, kindly visit an opioid treatment center that helps you know how to abstain yourself from the use of opioid and lead a simple life. Although there are many approaches to treat your addiction to opioids, enrolling yourself in a good rehab center is, of course, the most effective way. These centers offer you many programs according to your needs and help you to recover completely. When you make a decision in your mind to attend an opioid treatment program, make sure that you select the best one available in your locality. For this, you need to conduct thorough research and find out the one that suits your requirements as well as budget.

patient-identification-system-prevents-medical-identity-theft

There is a number of opioid rehabilitation centers in Philadelphia that offer excellent rehabilitation facilities and numerous programs including medical and behavioral treatments. These programs motivate you to quit taking opioids. These centers are located in almost all states of the USA. You can easily find rehab centers in your state that offer excellent facilities. If location is not a problem and geographical limits are not a major concern, you can also look for rehabs outside the USA. This provides you with a wide range of options to choose from. The main benefit of this is that you’ll be able to take advantage of the best rehab facilities for your loved ones in the event you are not satisfied with the existing opioid rehab centers in your state. There are several international options available in other countries too. You can avail the best of the bests. Before enrolling yourself in an opioid center, ensure that you make proper inquiries about their facilities, programs, and fee structure.

Facilities offered in opioid centers

  1. Opioid centers are committed to offering you expert advice and assistance which will help you to defeat your craving for taking opioids. They will also help you to understand the harmful effects of the opioid on your health as well as your family and social life.
  2. Opioid rehab centers offer gender-specific programs and treatments customized according to your specific needs. These programs encourage you to stay away from opioid use and you can live a sober life with your family.
  3. Most of the centers offer you medication treatment that reduces the craving of opioid consumption in you. They employ doctors, physicians, and specialists so that they can offer you proper medication to treat your addiction.
  4. Apart from this, they have several other programs including dual diagnosis, intensive outpatient, sober living, professionals programs, and family outreach programs to inspire you to defeat your urge and live a healthy and happy life.
  5. The rehab centers also have in-house psychologists, trainers, and psychiatrists to help and motivate you to stay away from opioids. They show you the right path following which you can lead a happy and fulfilling life.
  6. They also organize alumni programs where you can meet those individuals who came there as patients and now leading a fulfilling and healthy life.
How to identify patients with opioid abuse or addiction treatment?
How to identify patients with opioid abuse or addiction treatment?

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Opioid rehab centers are the best places to treat addiction. They not only teach you how to stay away from them, but also help you understand their bad effects on your personal, social, and family life. The experts in rehab centers motivate you to defeat your urge of taking opioids and show you the brighter side of life. You can completely rely on their services as they always encourage you to live a healthy, sober, and fulfilling life.

proper-patient-identification-helps-everyone

Proper Patient Identification Can Help Fight the Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis has been a menace since it started. It spread like wildfire throughout the country, and everyone involved in healthcare is still struggling to keep the situation under control. PDMPs (prescription drug monitoring programs) have been set up in almost every state to monitor activities like prescribing, distributing, and using controlled substances such as opioids. These PDMPs help identify patients who might be prone to drug abuse and provides the hospitals with opportunities to prevent such scenarios.

proper-patient-identification-helps-everyone

If that is true, then why is the opioid crisis still a thing?

PDMPs are dependent on the data they are given to work with. They receive patient data like logs, records, patient profiles, and even counseling records. Thus, if the data is clean, then the PDMPs will work perfectly, and vice versa. Here lies the challenge- most of the data can be incomplete or unreliable, to begin with.

According to Injury Facts, the odds of a person dying from opioids are greater than dying from a motor vehicle collision. This has made opioid overdoses to be the fifth largest cause of deaths in the country. Everyone is on edge regarding the issue, and it is paramount that the data needed by PDMPs are accurate, valid. And consistent with the patients. Accurate patient data at all times can drastically reduce the opioid overdoses and bring the whole situation under control.

The biggest challenges- data quality and patient matching errors

Hospitals and health systems have been adapting EHR systems quite rapidly for the past few decades, which has helped digitize medical records. Even after all these years, proper patient identification is still a significant challenge for many. Much of the patient data have errors or are incomplete. Many of these can be traced back to duplicate medical records or overlays. According to a survey conducted by PDMP Training and Technical Assistance Center, the majority of the states are facing problems with patient records- 53% said that there are data quality issues.

Proper Patient Identification Can Help Fight the Opioid Crisis
Proper Patient Identification Can Help Fight the Opioid Crisis

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Can proper patient identification be the answer?

Accurate patient matching is the only solution- something which can identify the accurate patients within seconds. RightPatient is just that- a biometric patient identification platform. It locks the patients’ medical records with their biometric data such as fingerprints or irises. After enrollment, the patient needs only to scan their biometrics, and the platform identifies the accurate EHR within seconds. Several health systems such as Novant Health and University Health Care System are using it and are reporting enhanced patient safety, improved revenue cycle, and reduced medical identity thefts. No longer can drug abusers come in and claim someone else’s identity- the system flags them within seconds. Health systems that are using RightPatient have dramatically reduced opioid issues within their premises. Since accurate patient record matching is the key, RightPatient is the perfect solution for the problem. Proper patient identification has never been easier and safer!

prevent-medical-identity-theft

How Do Progressive Hospitals Prevent Medical Identity Theft?

There are many things we need to be concerned about to avoid any identity theft and lose a significant amount of money. Social Security Numbers, bank accounts, credit cards, insurance, and even driver’s license need to be monitored continuously to make sure these are safe and sound. Another kind of theft has been increasing rapidly in numbers- medical identity theft. However, what are the problems associated with medical identity theft, and what can hospitals do to ensure that their patient data is safe and secure from such events? Let’s explore.

prevent-medical-identity-theft

What is medical identity theft?

As a refresher, medical identity theft occurs whenever an unauthorized person takes the credentials of a patient without the latter’s knowledge and uses it for personal gain. It can be used to obtain healthcare services such as prescription drugs, treatment, as well as medical equipment. Also, as we can see in the recent news, criminals are actively targeting medical data of patients, which has contributed to the meteoric rise of medical identity theft. These cause the patients to receive medical bills with shocking numbers- tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of services can be used or stolen by the criminals. One hundred seventy-one million patient records were exposed online, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. On the other hand, the reputed Ponemon Institute estimates that patients pay around $13,500 either for the fixes or for the services used by the culprits.

How does it affect patients and hospitals?

Other than the previously mentioned financial impacts medical identity theft has on patients, it affects them in different ways as well. According to the Ponemon Institute, 3% of the patients were fired, 19% lost potential jobs. In contrast, a considerable number of patients faced embarrassment due to the exposure of sensitive healthcare data- all of which happened due to medical identity theft. It can also cause the medical data of the culprits to be embedded into the patient record. For instance, when a victim goes to their providers for healthcare services, the patient might be given treatment based on the culprit’s preferences, interfering with the preferences of the actual patient.

How Do Progressive Hospitals Prevent Medical Identity Theft?
How Do Progressive Hospitals Prevent Medical Identity Theft?

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For hospitals, medical identity theft is equally damaging, if not worse. Half of the patients will switch their healthcare providers if their medical identities are stolen, according to the Ponemon Institute. Such an event would also impact their reputation, cause losses in millions due to denied claims, and so on. All in all, medical identity theft is a problem for everyone involved and can be very costly to fix.

How do hospitals prevent medical identity theft?

Many safeguards can prevent medical identity theft, but none are as effective as RightPatient. It is a biometric patient identification platform that ensures that the medical records are locked with the biometric data of the patients. The platform takes the biometric data such as fingerprints or irises of the patients and attaches them with the medical records. Without biometric verification, the records cannot be accessed by unauthorized parties, ensuring no medical identity theft takes place. RightPatient also ensures patient safety- the platform provides accurate medical records within seconds of scanning the patients’ biometric data. It reduces denied claims, improves revenue cycle, and saves hospitals and patients from unnecessary costs. Several pioneering healthcare providers like Terrebonne General Medical Center and Novant Health are using RightPatient. They are reducing denied claims, preventing medical identity theft, improving revenue cycle, and enhancing patient safety.

medical-identity-theft-prevention

Medical Identity Theft Prevention Enhances Patient Trust

What is one of the crucial things a company needs to ensure so that it can thrive? Is it the employees, revenue, or size? While many may answer something along the lines of the previously mentioned characteristics, one of the most critical assets a company can have is the trust of its customers. The healthcare system is no different- various health systems and hospitals are successful today only because of their patients’ trust in their services. Since it is healthcare, patients put their lives in the hands of the hospitals- trust plays a huge role here. That trust can be enhanced with medical identity theft prevention.

medical-identity-theft-prevention

According to Morning Consult, in terms of trust from consumers, healthcare lies in the middle, while insurance, finance, and real state are underneath it, whereas airlines and technology are above it.

Morning Consult conducted a study which had several respondents about their perception regarding various US brands as well as firms. From these people, a meager 16% responded that they trust health systems a lot, whereas 36% said that they believe these organizations somewhat.

Also, while ranking the most trustworthy companies, people, ideas, among other things, the respondents ranked their physicians even above notable choices such as Google, police, and leaders.

Thankfully, the report went deeper and gave areas of improvement for hospitals and health systems to build up trust among patients. When the sample of the study was asked what the most crucial factor which helps build trust towards an organization is, three-fourth of the respondents said that protecting their sensitive data was extremely important for trust-building.

All of these are straight from the customers themselves, and these are even more applicable to the US healthcare system. The health systems and hospitals need to ensure that the sensitive patient data they keep are safeguarded, especially now. Breaches seem to be very common nowadays, which leads to exposure to the patients’ confidential medical data as well as documents like medical images, medication, and so on. It costs both patients and healthcare providers alike- patients become victims of medical identity theft, whereas healthcare providers’ reputations are dented. People question the security surrounding the medical records since HIPAA requires strict safeguarding of such sensitive information.

Medical Identity Theft Prevention Enhances Patient Trust
Medical Identity Theft Prevention Enhances Patient Trust

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

These lead to losses for both patients and health systems- patients may sue the hospitals, the culprits may use the identities to avail services illegally, costing the patients a significant amount of money for services that they never used. Medical identity theft may also occur if an individual steals a patient’s medical credentials and uses it for his/her gain. In such cases, the preferences of the culprit may get mixed up with that of the patients. For instance, the patient might be allergic to certain medications, and may still receive that after the culprit uses his/her ID.

Dynamic healthcare providers such as Novant Health, Terrebonne General Medical Center, and University Health Care System are preventing such issues by using RightPatient. It is a biometric patient identification platform that locks the medical records after attaching those with the biometric data of the patients. Once a patient enrolls with the biometric data, for instance, irises or fingerprints, the records can be accessed using only the same data, creating medical identity theft prevention. The hospital can also identify the accurate patient record within seconds after the patient scans his/her biometric data for verification. RightPatient not only aids in medical identity theft prevention, but also eliminates patient matching errors, ensuring accurate patient identification, enhancing patient safety, and improving the revenue cycle as well. It saves lives as well as millions for both patients and health systems, enhancing patient trust.

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Wrong Patient Identification Causes Kidney Transplant Fiasco at a Hospital

Another day, another wrong patient identification. It just goes to show how common patient misidentification is in the US healthcare system. It has been plaguing the industry for several years and looks like there is no stopping it. However, what did it cause this time? Where did it happen? Who was affected? Was it fatal? Let’s dive deep.

The patient misidentification took place in Lourdes Hospital Transplant Center, located in New Jersey. This time, it was the case of a kidney transplant- the patient who had the surgery and got another patient’s required kidney. However, nobody at the hospital noticed that such a mix-up took place.

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Why did this mix-up happen?

Once again, it is because of the similar characteristics of the patients. This time, the patients had a similar name as well as age. Both of them needed kidneys, that’s why they were on the same list. However, the one who was supposed to get a kidney later got it first- this was found out by a hospital official while checking the organ donor list. It was quite lucky for the patient that the kidney was a perfect match, as the other scenario could have had dire consequences.

The good thing is that the hospital reported the incident on their own, according to Virtua Health (which owns the Lourdes Health System). Thus, it is quite transparent about the issue. Had this been some other hospital, it might have denied it or kept the matter under wraps.

Virtua Health’s Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer said that this is a rare case occurring in its forty-years-old program and that they are ensuring they take the steps necessary to ensure that this unwanted incident does not happen again.

Later on, the patient who was supposed to get the kidney first got the surgery a week later, and both the patients are doing fine now.

Wrong Patient Identification Causes Kidney Transplant Fiasco at a Hospital
Wrong Patient Identification Causes Kidney Transplant Fiasco at a Hospital

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This is not an isolated incident. It might be one of the very few cases where the patients were unscathed due to wrong patient identification, which did not cause any significant harm to them. Several patients get misidentified every day, almost due to medical record mix-ups, duplicate medical records, data overlays, and so on. This affects patients as they receive the wrong bills, medication, and even surgeries, like in this case. Hospitals are also affected- denied claims, lower ratings, data overlays, and medical identity theft all lead to huge losses.

How can hospitals avoid wrong patient identification?

The problem here is medical record mix-up and wrong patient identification. That is eliminated by using RightPatient- several progressive health systems and hospitals are using this biometric patient identification platform. It seamlessly integrates with existing EHR systems and keeps the biometric data of the patients. Once a patient registers with it, the biometric data such as irises or fingerprints are used to identify the accurate medical record within seconds and pulls it from the EHR system for use. RightPatient also locks the medical record with the patient’s biometric data so that unauthorized access is prevented- eliminating medical identity theft in the process. Had RightPatient been used in this case, this mix-up could have been prevented, just how health systems like Novant Health and Terrebonne General Medical Center are avoiding it. 

patient-identification-prevents-readmissions

2583 hospitals hit with penalties due to readmission reduction program

Medicare hit 2583 health systems with penalties by cutting payments to them. This has been happening for the last eight years and thanks to the ACA, it is an effort to reduce the readmission rates of hospitals. This specifically focuses on the patients who return within the same month after they are primarily discharged which helps the readmission reduction program.

This is not something new, as it is a recurrent theme for the last few years, where Medicare predicts that it’ll cost the hospitals a whopping $563 million per year. This effort to reduce readmissions is known as the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program and has about 3129 hospitals attached to it. Out of them, a staggering 83% could not reduce the readmission rate and thus, were slapped with the penalties. This penalty to each of these hospitals will be in the form of deductions from the payments Medicare will pay them for future patients over the next year, starting this October 1st.

patient-identification-prevents-readmissions

One thing has been repeatedly said that these efforts have been going on for quite some time, since 2012, to be precise. However, many are still unclear whether these fines are helping to reduce readmission rates and thus generating better patient safety. On the other hand, these efforts have been reinforcing hospitals and health systems to reimagine how the patients are receiving care and focus on their health after discharging them so that minimal readmissions occur. Conversely, many industry pundits have chimed in that a few healthcare providers may intentionally avoid readmitting patients who require critical post-discharge healthcare services solely because of these penalties, which is severely detrimental for the patient’s health as well the hospitals’ reputations. Others are saying the program itself is not that effective, although it has brought in small benefits. 

Some studies were conducted, and it was revealed that this HRRP caused an increase in fatal incidents regarding patients. However, it was refuted by a study conducted by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC).

Sometime last month, MedPAC’s study was released to the public, and it showed that the number of readmissions of Medicare patients within a timeframe of 30 days decreased to 15.7% in 2017 from 16.7% in 2010. 

2583 hospitals hit with penalties due to readmission reduction program
2583 hospitals hit with penalties due to readmission reduction program

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Going into specifics, the hospitals are penalized for these readmissions when the patients are provided with healthcare services for heart failure, pneumonia, heart attack, hip and knee replacement, chronic coronary artery bypass graft surgery, or lung disease. One good thing regarding HRRP is that inevitable readmissions, for instance, scheduled ones, are exempted from penalties. Delving deeper, HRRP dictates that if patients return within the 30 days timeframe, the hospital will be penalized. Also, if the Medicare-funded patients go to a different hospital, the primary hospital which provided the care will be penalized. 

According to KHN, about 1177 hospitals were penalized higher than they were compared to last year, whereas 1148 received lower penalties compared to the previous period. 64 providers were stable since they received the same amount of penalty compared to last year. 194 new hospitals were added to the list of penalized hospitals, whereas 372 exemplary hospitals received no penalties for two consecutive years. However, one thing must be noted- 2142 health systems and hospitals were exempted due to the lower number of cases, veterans, or children’s hospitals. 

So, the readmission reduction program is one of the biggest headaches of hospitals and health systems. How can they be reduced? Well, a lot of health systems are using RightPatient to address it. It is a biometric patient identification platform that locks the medical records of the patents with their biometric data and the records cannot be accessed without biometrics. Other than ensuring positive patient identification, it also ensures that the hospitals receive a notification when a patient enters their premises within the 30-day period so that they can be provided with better care and thus ensuring better patient experience, reducing the penalties as well as better patient outcomes and thus, minimizing losses while creating a win-win situation for all.

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
Seven strategies ACOs use for better patient outcomes and lower costs

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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.

patient matching challenges

Unique identifiers will lead to a reduction of patient matching challenges

If you are a follower of this blog, then you will know how huge a problem patient matching challenges actually are for the whole healthcare industry. As the health systems are brainstorming workarounds to make sure patient matching is increased, they should also keep in mind some other factors. According to a report from Pew Charitable Trusts, if the industry wants to ensure that patient matching errors are eradicated or at least substantially reduced, they should focus on developing robust data standards and patient engagement alongside the search for an effective patient identification system.

patient matching challenges

But why should it matter? According to the researchers, they have found positive correlations between patient matching errors and adverse effects. To put it simply, if a health system cannot match a patient correctly to his/her existing medical record, then problems like rising costs, medication errors, and adverse patient experiences will take place. Thus, patient matching is not an issue which can be underestimated. Concerns such as data integrity failures, lack of clean records, and patient mix-ups can all lead to patient identification errors and disrupt the patient experience as well as threaten patient safety. For example, if patient A has heart disease and patient B has kidney complications, and their records somehow got mixed up, then both of them will receive improper care, which could be fatal. Such mix-ups usually occur because of common names, demographics, addresses, as well as the format of the data stored within the EHRs of the patients. Formatting refers to how a health system saves the data and how many data fields it uses. For example, one health system may keep email addresses, whereas another one may not.

Another example can be a health system saving the full name of a patient in a single data field, whereas another may use three fields to save first, middle, and last names of the patients. Due to such errors, interoperability is generated as well. Other issues which cause patient matching errors can be incomplete or blank data. 

The research said that if common elements used by all the health systems were to be standardized, that is, the data is entered using a standard guideline rather than each health system doing so independently, these patient matching errors would decrease by a considerable amount. However, this may not reduce patient mix-ups between individuals with common characteristics like names and addresses, as these are still bound to happen. 

Another suggestion the research made was that active patient participation is needed to ensure that they are correctly identified and matched with their appropriate record. However, patients can sometimes absentmindedly or inadvertently choose a wrong record, while in other cases, the hospital staff may do it on their behalf and create a whole new record for the patient, known as a duplicate ID. 

Unique identifiers will lead to a reduction of patient matching challenges
Unique identifiers will lead to a reduction of patient matching challenges

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The third and most effective suggestion the research made was to emphasize on using a unique patient identifier, something along the lines of RightPatient, that is, biometric patient identification systems. The study has shown that such a system helps in improving accurate patient identifications. The research further stated that biometric modalities are unique, cannot be counterfeited, and have excellent potential in the healthcare industry. They also found that hundreds of health systems have widely utilized some form of biometric patient identification system, and among them, one health system stated that over 90% of their patients accepted to use their biometrics to be identified since it is easy to use as well as accurate. Both the providers of healthcare as well as the receivers agreed that biometrics are helping to reduce patient matching challenges. 

RightPatient falls in line with the research’s suggestion. It is a biometric patient identification system which uses iris scanning to identify patients. Once a patient’s irises are registered into the system, the data is then integrated with the patient’s health record. All the patient needs to do is look at their camera- RightPatient then accurately matches him/her with the proper ID- it is that easy and convenient. Since it does not require any physical contact, there are no risks for contracting new diseases during the identification process. Even the health systems love RightPatient since, with its help, the physicians can focus more on the patient rather than spend time matching the patient with the correct record, enhancing the patient experience along the way. Over one hundred health systems are using it and have reported that it has reduced losses which they incurred due to patient matching challenges, saving millions of dollars in the process.