improve patient outcome

Strategies which help ACOs to improve patient outcomes

The individual entities in any Accountable Care Organization (ACO) are always under the pressure to reduce their costs as well as strengthen their healthcare strategies to improve patient outcomes and maximize the benefits of being a part of the ACO. Thus, they are familiar with the fact that they need to develop strategies for accomplishing these targets- reduce costs, improve patient data sharing, care coordination, and improve patient outcomes as well, with an emphasis on post-discharge patients via reduced hospital readmission rates.

improve patient outcome

Take post-acute care networks as an example- north of 40% of Medicare patients receive post-acute care after they are discharged from the hospital, costing more than a whopping $60 billion back in 2015. Variation in post-acute care also caused Medicare spending variance by more than 73%- these variances were tied to healthcare costs, outcomes, and quality- the better the quality, the lower the costs, and vice versa.

If these standards are not satisfied, then the ACO receives penalties in the form of lower payments or fines. Thus, any given ACO needs to generate an exceptional patient experience via better healthcare, improving the coordination among the organizations regarding data sharing, reducing the readmission rates and minimizing the costs incurred. 

Here are some strategies which will help the ACOs to achieve these targets: 

Use biometrics for patient identification

Biometric patient identification systems are being used by over one hundred health systems and are reported to increase patient matching significantly- something which is sorely needed within the healthcare industry currently. In the case of ACOs, a single patient’s data is shared by all the systems within them, such as health systems, hospitals, physician groups, and insurers. Thus, interoperability is a must-have feature. EHRs are already known to cause identification errors and have unintuitive interfaces, inherently low patient match rates, and lack of interoperability, which is why health systems are using add-ons like RightPatient to accurately match the patient with his/her appropriate medical record. EHRs are supposed to cause physician burnouts as well, as they need to click through the interface thousands of times. Thus, adopting a solution like RightPatient will not only improve the match rates but also improve the patient experience as well as reduce physician burnouts, generating improved coordination. Patients only need to get their irises scanned to retrieve their accurate medical record for usage. Thus, faster matching creates better coordination and sharing of uniform and clean data among the organizations funded by Medicare. 

Ensure proper medication adherence 

One of the biggest problems for ACOs is ER (emergency room) visits, which generate hospital readmission rates- occurring due to the unhealthy population under their care. According to a study, two-thirds of the patients who are supposed to take medications are non-adherent; that is, they do not take their medications properly. This non-adherence creates around 50% of treatment failures among those patients and causes up to 125,000 deaths per year. The fact is that these deaths could have been prevented if the patients were adherent to their medications. All these generate up to an unbelievable $300 billion in costs. Apps like CircleCare have a feature which could have ensured medication adherence- Medicine Box- a medicine reminder where patients can easily set reminders for their medications.

 

Thus, even if the medication regimen is complex, CircleCare makes it easier than ever for the patients to take the right medicine at the right time.

Provide patient education

Another challenge for ACOs is that their patients are not adequately educated regarding their medical conditions. Research shows that over 50% of adult patients experience difficulty in using and understanding their health-related information, whereas around 40% forget most of the data. CircleCare provides health-related information which is customized according to the patient’s disease(s)- this helps to keep the patient up to date with the latest information regarding his/her medical condition so that informed decisions can be made. This ensures effective patient education, leading to better patient outcomes. Once an ACO registers with CircleCare’s service, all it needs to do is direct the patient to download it. Afterward, the patients can schedule their medicine, track steps, record blood glucose levels, record blood pressure, and communicate with their healthcare provider- all of which helps to improve patient outcomes, lower readmission rates, and reduced costs as well as higher quality healthcare. 

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. 

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.

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?

improving-patient-safety

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.

patient-safety-issues

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.

patient-safety-issues

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.

patient-misidentification-cases

Patient misidentification cases are persistent as no industry-wide solution exists

Synchronizing medical information with the appropriate patients accordingly- how hard can it be, right? Well, it is precisely the opposite. It is easier said than done- patient misidentification cases are abundant. Since the introduction of electronic health records (EHRs), people thought that it would make the lives of everyone involved easier, but the reverse has happened. EHRs are filled with issues like misspellings, incomplete data, common names, outdated addresses, and so on, which overall leads to duplication of records. One of the consequences of all of this, according to a reputed organization, is the match rates being an average of 80%, sometimes even lower. It doesn’t sound all that bad, but it is the result obtained from the same healthcare provider the records have been created in! 

patient-misidentification-cases

One out of every five patients is likely to suffer from patient identification errors and become one of the many patient misidentification cases in the US. This is not the only problem, however. Patient matching errors are like a web created by spiders- trapping all the parties who are connected to patient identification- patients, healthcare providers, physicians, insurance companies, and so on. 

Patient misidentification cases are also synonymous with rising costs as patient misidentification is famous for being a persistent multibillion-dollar problem in the healthcare industry. A patient matching error costs a hospital around $2000, and if we look at the bigger picture, there are $1.5 million of denied claims for a single hospital in a given year. That is an outrageous amount of money which is completely wasted due to these errors.

As per the definition, patient matching refers to obtaining the accurate medical record for a given patient whenever necessary, to make informed decisions regarding the health of the patient. Healthcare professionals are frustrated that this is not what they experience whenever they are matching the patients with their records and are clamoring for something which will change the industry and generate accurate patient identification- something RightPatient is very good at doing. 

Let’s explore more in-depth into why patient matching errors occur. Patient matching is also reliant on the hospital employees who come into contact with it- they need to fill in the gaps for the new data, or else they might need to update changes in data like a surname, address, etc. to ensure accuracy. However, errors, in this case, maybe made by either the patient, the staff, or both. A patient might not be attentive and may not check whether accurate data has been entered; likewise, an employee may not check with the patient to ensure he has put in the correct data or not. They might think that it is not a big deal, but there lies the problem. Such inconsistencies which they believe are inconsequential lead to increased waiting times, worse patient outcomes, financial losses, wrong treatments, and sometimes even result in deaths. 

A reputed individual in the industry stated that to combat these errors, a lot of countries have switched to unique IDs for patients. Sadly, the US is not doing that yet, as it has no nationwide standardized patient identifier nor any effective strategy to do so. Thus, the responsibility is pushed onto the shoulders of the healthcare providers, each coming up with their own approach for identifying patients. 

A lot of suggestions have been made by experts to solve these errors, like software for patient identification, improvements in data standards, and ID cards, among many other options. However, the only one which is being pursued by many and used by early adopters are biometric patient identification systems. RightPatient is the most appropriate choice to eliminate patient matching errors. It uses iris scanning to ensure that the correct patient is identified, and it does so with ease, as reported by over a hundred healthcare providers who are using it. As it is using iris scanning, it is also hygienic and safe, as it requires no physical contact, and is convenient for the patients, as all they need to do is look into the scanner to match with their records. Since it is also less time consuming than traditional patient matching, it is lauded by many for improving the patient experience as well as patient safety. Patient matching has never been easier and more accurate, according to the users of RightPatient