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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.

patient-experience-in-healthcare

Patient experience in healthcare is vital for both hospitals and patients

Patients are customers of the healthcare industry, and like conventional customers, they anticipate an improved patient experience- shorter wait times, accurate identifications, and more focus of physicians. However, emphasizing on patient experience is not only beneficial for the patients but also the health systems, as well. Let’s see how exactly this is true.

patient-experience-in-healthcare

There’s a common saying in the healthcare industry- healthcare is continuously evolving, and those serving the industry need to be on top of the situation by adapting to the situation. This means that if health systems do not adapt to technologies improving the patient experience, they will lag behind. Just like customers, patients can shift to other health systems offering the best patient experience possible.

Because of this, several experienced personnel in the healthcare industry agree on two things which are common nowadays, regardless of these technological advancements – patients are the core of their care strategies and health systems are focusing on positive patient outcomes and patient experience in healthcare.

The changing landscape 

As previously mentioned, the healthcare industry works almost like any other industry. Patients now have access to a massive amount of information with which they can make informed decisions regarding themselves or their close loved ones. Thus, patients have evolved according to the transformation of the healthcare industry. Thanks to digitization, they have become more knowledgeable, more informed, and are better prepared for decision-making compared to before. Patients interact with other sectors as well, daily, and from those interactions arise the expectations of superior customer (patient) experience from the healthcare industry.

How is the healthcare industry responding?

As the demands of the patients keep changing, many healthcare providers are tailoring their services accordingly to keep up with the formers’ expectations. Health systems are doing so by adopting the latest technologies available to meet the demands of the patients; for instance, using patient engagement apps to keep the patients connected and ensuring active participation from the patients’ ends and establishing loyalty among the patients in the process. This also generates in lower patient readmissions, as non-critical issues can be solved efficiently via the apps through communication between the doctors and patients, thus, better patient outcomes.

However, patient experience goes both ways. There have been multiple studies which refer to the positive correlation between patient experience and physician experience. The better the patient experience is, the better the physicians are motivated, as well. Also, physicians have had burnouts due to inefficiencies like clunky EHRs. The physicians reported that they would rather focus on their patients than look at the screen all day long and click the mouse a thousand times, which is the case every day for any given physician. Thus, removing such tedious tasks and improving patient experience can result in an overall better experience for all of those involved.

The multibillion-dollar question

There is another aspect of the patient experience which has been overlooked by many – patient misidentification. This is a massive problem of the healthcare industry, and the losses caused by it are unprecedented. Thus, it is aptly called a multibillion-dollar issue. However, it not only causes financial losses but also results in various degrees of problems for the patients, ranging from wrong treatment plans to even untimely deaths. Also, as previously mentioned, this is the aspect of healthcare which causes burnouts in the physicians – interacting with EHRs to identify patients, and sometimes it takes a long time to do so correctly.

Every day, we read an article about patient matching errors, how it impacts the patients, the health systems, and how big of a problem it is. Thanks to numerous studies, statistics, and facts, it is not sidelined anymore, as health systems are now clamoring for solutions to it. But is there an effective solution? There is, and it is called RightPatient. RightPatient is a biometric patient identification system which focuses on iris scanning to provide a safe, secure, and hygienic way to accurately identify the patients, as there is no necessity for physical contact and all the patient needs to do is look at the camera. Once a patient is registered in RightPatient, there are no chances for any duplicate records, as the data is linked to the EHR of the patient. RightPatient also seamlessly integrates with any significant EHR system and is effectively used by over a hundred hospitals to ensure patient safety, enhance the patient experience (which in turn improves the experience of all involved with patient identification), and cut losses caused by misidentifications.

improve-the-patient-experience

What are health systems doing to improve the patient experience?

Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of competition present in the healthcare industry. To stay ahead, loyalty and patient experience are must-have attributes for any given healthcare provider. In some cases, healthcare can indeed be consumer-driven; for instance, take patient engagement. According to a recent study, patients are five times more likely to choose the health system with whom they have had positive experiences, rather than those who attempt to attract new patients with their marketing strategies. This study demonstrates that patient loyalty and positive patient experience are the characteristics to strive for, which is why healthcare providers are looking for strategies to improve the patient experience.

improve-the-patient-experience

Thanks to many tools which are improving patient outcomes, patients today are anticipating effective and seamless patient experiences. However, these tools and strategies have to be patient-centric to be successful, as well as being competent enough to induce loyalty, and the most necessary characteristic is trust. Without trust, no health system can survive, let alone be successful, in the long run. Thus, healthcare providers are increasingly focusing on constantly revamping and helps to improve the patient experience.

Healthcare providers are improving the patient experience by focusing on the following.

Patient engagement technologies

Patient engagement is a buzzword recently, and everyone is pursuing ways to improve it within their health systems. Why is this so? Because it is one of the core characteristics which contributes to not only improving the patient experience but also assisting in patient retention. There are a plethora of solutions available in health systems under the umbrella of patient engagement, like health programs, surveys, participative courses, and so on. However, therein lies the problem- the solutions are many, and only a very few are effective as patients deem most as unnecessary and tedious. These are termed so by the patients because these tools’ functionalities are mostly unclear- many overpromise while delivering minimal benefits. To find patient engagement tools which are useful, health systems are diving deep into the technological side of the healthcare industry. Thus, active patient engagement is powered by technologies which help to connect the patients with their health systems seamlessly and assist the patients in leading healthy lifestyles.

Even though many would go for surveys, participative courses, and similar patient engagement strategies, research has shown that these are not very effective. Most of the time, patients are absentminded while answering, and as long as they do not see the potential benefits of these tools, they will not be interested in participating wholeheartedly.

On the other hand, there have been quite a few advancements in technologies which are helping to effectively engage with patients, such as patient retention apps like CircleCare. It is an app that helps patients stay connected to their health systems and doubles as a patient engagement platform. Once a healthcare provider registers with CircleCare, all it needs to do is refer the patient to download it and register. After that, patients can effectively engage in several ways with their health systems, and not only that, they can also work on leading healthier lifestyles. It can be used to track steps, schedule medicine reminders, record blood pressure, record glucose level, and exchange relevant health information with other individuals. It also helps them to stay connected to the physicians, so that if a problem arises, it can be solved outside the hospital’s premises as long as it is not critical. These functions help in cutting down hospital readmissions, as well.

Improving patient safety

Patient safety is currently one of the biggest concerns of the healthcare industry, especially those linked with patient identification errors. Recent surveys, statistics, and studies have shown that patient misidentification is a multibillion-dollar issue. Since the introduction of EHRs, things have gotten worse. To put things into perspective, the identification and correction of a single duplicate record cost around $1000, whereas if there are multiple records attached, it requires a whopping $5000 for any given health system! So, how are healthcare systems avoiding these patient matching errors? They are adopting technologies which are helping to eliminate these errors- solutions like RightPatient. RightPatient is a biometric patient identification system that utilizes iris scanning, thus making it easy to use for both the patients and hospital staff. It is also hygienic as it does not require physical contact and is also safe and accurate. The health systems using it are reporting that it helped to improve the patient experience, improved patient safety, and reduced denied claims. All of these lead to minimizing the losses incurred due to misidentifications significantly.

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.  

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. 

Doctor-looking-at-EHR-system

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.

Doctor-looking-at-EHR-system

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.

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.

improving-patient-safety

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%.

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.

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Patient safety issues occur due to EHR misidentifications

When electronic health records (EHRs) were introduced, people lauded it as the next big thing in the technological landscape of the healthcare industry. There were many reasons- it was entirely digital as the name suggests, could be accessed quickly and whenever required, reduced paperwork, among many other reasons. However, once it was widely implemented, the reality was drastically different. Instead of solving these problems, EHRs added additional ones along the way- patient safety issues.

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EHRs have created many problems for patients and healthcare providers alike. They have created risks which were unpredicted at the time of their implementation, which can potentially generate the chance to make grave errors in the treatment processes for patients, specifically if the treatment involves medicines. If this seems terrible, it gets even worse. These problems associated with EHRs are much more catastrophic for children and younger patients since their prescribed drugs are age-based. A study has found that EHRs do not take age into account; thus, it does not tackle the problems associated in a pediatric environment. Other than that, patient safety issues like matching errors are synonymous with EHRs. This is where biometric patient identification systems like RightPatient come into play.

The problems healthcare providers face while using EHRs lead to misidentifications mostly. Some of the challenges EHR users face are:

  • Problems associated with displaying patient information, or incomplete/corrupt patient data
  • Issues related to patient data entries which cause delays
  • Problems with EHRs regarding feedback or notifications
  • Disruption in the workflow if data needs to be shared 

So what are the actual problems associated with patient safety issues caused by EHRs? 

Restricted information results in wrong medications

EHRs usually provide the hospitals with blank data fields which the latter can fill in, if required, regarding making notes making it easier for colleagues. However, they do not know whether their colleagues have access to those specific fields, which can create many problems. For example, if a doctor had made a note within the EHR regarding the medical condition of a patient, say glucose level, the nurse who will administer the medication may not be able to view this note because her access is restricted, not taking into account the medical condition. Such problems lead to a lot of medical complications. Likewise, if required fields are not available to be viewed by everyone in the hospital, the staff may get confused between patients with common characteristics like name, address, etc., causing patient matching errors.

A patient is provided with excess or wrong medication due to an entry error

This is the primary cause of confusing units- between imperial units and metric units. Thus, as it is common in the US to use pounds, and if the weight is entered in pounds, but the EHR accepts only kilograms, this will hamper with the medication. Medications are sometimes dependant on the weight, especially in the cases of children, and they may, unfortunately, receive larger doses of medicine than required, which can be fatal. Other than that, if a patient is misidentified, then this will cause the patient to receive the wrong medication as well.

Missed doses of medications occur due to problematic information displays

EHRs can usually list all the medicines that have been scheduled for patients, along with time and dosage required. However, sometimes due to patient matching errors, they may end up with the medicines planned for some other patient, and this can be fatal for both the patients involved if someone is not cautious enough while administering the medications.

Duplicate patient IDs are created

By far, one of the most significant flaws of EHRs is consistent to this very day. News regarding patient matching errors are very common, and at least one person you know has faced it. How does it happen? Very simply- once a patient comes in and a hospital representative does not find the individual’s record in the EHR, the employee tries to save time by creating a new ID instead of searching more in-depth for the correct record. The staff thinks that this is the way to save time and effort but generates another source for losses by the employer. Sometimes even the patients are to be blamed- if they are not attentive enough while verification, the hospital staff may pick the wrong record for them. Its effects can range from being financial losses to even life-threatening. Due to this single issue, everyone involved with healthcare has suffered- patients, healthcare providers, insurance companies, and so on. Healthcare companies are now clamoring for a unique patient ID solution to eliminate these errors. 

Medical ID thefts take place

Another consequence of patient safety issues via EHRs- fraudulent activities. Addicts and professional thieves can very easily misuse others’ IDs and gain access to healthcare benefits or drugs which are entitled to the actual patients, resulting in financial losses incurred by the unfortunate patients. All this happens because there was no sure way to identify whether the medical record belonged to the perpetrator, until now.

What can be the solution to patient safety issues?

As seen from the problems, all of them point in one direction- patient matching errors. From all of this, patient identification error is seen as a disease in itself of the healthcare industry. Everyone involved is affected and suffers due to it in various ways and degrees. It is a multibillion-dollar problem in the US, where fixing a single entry costs from $1000-5000.

However, its days are numbered, it seems, as biometric patient identification systems like RightPatient are successfully eliminating it from the healthcare providers who use it. It uses iris scanning, which is easy and convenient for patients- all they need to do is look into the camera, and they are identified accurately. Another benefit of this biometric modality is that it also correctly identifies the irises of the younger patients as irises are formed within ten months of birth and remain unchanged. Patients also love it because there is no chance of getting any contagious diseases as it does not require physical touch. Over a hundred healthcare providers are using it, and they are reiterating the same thing- patient experience has improved along with patient safety due to the reduction of errors and the speed of the process.