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

Not a day goes by when we do not hear of patient identification errors– this has been plaguing the healthcare industry for a prolonged period of time; since the dawn of healthcare, patient misidentification has been present, and it still is, even to this very day. Accurate patient identification is of paramount importance – so much so, that it has forced the Joint Commission to prioritize patient identification as the first patient safety goal during 2014, and this has continued ever since. However, a unique patient identifier is yet to be found, funded, and determined due to privacy issues when it was first proposed.


Back when a unique patient identifier was initially proposed, it was thought to be integral for valid patient identification, since accurate patient matching will help reduce medical errors as well as costs incurred from misidentifications- speeding up the processes leading to improved and coordinated care. This is one of the reasons why UPIs are in the news again, regarding the abolishment of the ban on funds to create a unique patient identifier. However, this has yet to be processed, and it will be a long time into the future before it will see the light of day. Let’s focus on the here and now- what are these UPIs, and why are they so sought after? Let’s analyze.

If a standardized patient identification system were used nationwide, each patient would have a unique ID with which their healthcare providers, insurance companies, as well as other relevant parties will be able to identify the patients accurately, so that they would be able to manage all  relevant information without mixing it up with someone else’s information. In times of necessity, this information can also be shared with other parties; for instance, if the patient goes to some other care provider. This can be done confidently and error-free using the unique patient identifier. These are only a few of the benefits of UPI. However, enjoying such benefits in the USA is still a dream.

The USA is one of the only developed countries in the world which does not utilize a UPI. The usage of UPIs varies from country to country; whenever the need has arisen, countries have implemented some form of UPI which could easily be used by everyone involved in the healthcare sector and sped up the identification process by simplifying it. However, it is badly needed in the US, and it looks like it is nowhere near being available shortly.

A single entity does not provide healthcare to an individual patient- it is a complex process where many parties are involved in providing healthcare services to the patients in exchange for their hard-earned money. Thus, it means that teamwork is very crucial in this industry so that the providers do not mix up the patients and provide consistent care.

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

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

From a patient’s perspective, it would be extremely beneficial for them if a standardized patient identification system is chosen which will be used to treat them, bill them, and apply for all other formalities, so that everything is concise and present at one place, and so that the same set of data is available whenever their records are brought up. This will also help increase coordinated care so that if a patient has multiple healthcare providers for his/her different ailments, everyone can access the same level of data. For instance, everyone can access the same set of test results, medical records, and other relevant data regarding the patient. 

So, what can be a UPI? RightPatient seems to be a perfect candidate for becoming a unique patient identifier for the US healthcare system. It already has a lot of users, and all of them are reporting the same results- positive patient identification, enhanced patient safety, as well as improved patient experience. RightPatient focuses on biometrics, especially iris scanning, and once the patients are registered, all they need to do is look into the camera, and they are accurately matched with their medical records within seconds. A lot of health systems have used it to reduce losses by reducing misidentifications as well as insurance frauds. Not only does it speed up patient identifications, which earlier took forever, but it also cuts costs and helps save millions of dollars for the health systems using it.


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.


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

Patient safety

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

Medical identity theft 

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

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

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

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.


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?


A look at what patient matching errors are capable of

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

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

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

Problems associated with patient safety issues

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

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

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

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

What other problems arise from patient matching errors?

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

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

What is the solution for improving patient safety?

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


Patient identification error causes yet another grave mistake

Another day, another mistaken patient identification error. However, it was a bit different in this case. Two sisters were informed that their brother was on life support and that is the premise of the whole fiasco.


The sisters, Rosie Brooks, and Brenda Bennett-Johnson received a call from an official that someone they believed to be their brother Alfonso was breathing with the help of a ventilator at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center of Chicago. However, the sisters stated that they didn’t talk much to their brother. The call started with someone enquiring about relatives of Alfonso, and Brooks replied that she was the sister, and then the official broke the news- that he was fighting for his life in the ICU, explaining that he was beaten quite severely, especially the face.

The Chicago police had found the man beaten to a pulp, and according to reports had neither clothes nor any means of identification on his body. A police spokesperson said that witnesses of the incident identified the injured man as one Elijah Bennett. Later on, he was rushed to the hospital and was on life support. 

During his time in the hospital, as nobody came looking for him, the hospital staff had to take the help of the police in identifying him. The spokesperson said that their database had no “Elijah Bennett,” however, they did find “Alfonso Bennett.” The police later on handed over a picture so that the hospital could help identify any family members of the unfortunate patient. All these events led to the call to Brooks, yet another patient identification error. 

Patient identification error causes yet another grave mistake
Patient identification error causes yet another grave mistake

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

When the sisters rushed to the hospital, they failed to identify the man as their brother Alfonso. However, CPD kept saying that it was their brother. According to the nurse, police used the help of mugshots to identify him, but due to budgetary issues, a proper ID could not be made. 

However, the patient’s situation was worsening, and the sisters faced a challenging situation- whether or not to remove his life support. With immeasurable sadness, they had to sign papers stating that this man was their brother and to remove his life support, and as expected, the man passed away, unfortunately.

After this series of events, the story did not end. After the untimely death of the “brother,” the sisters started making preparations for his funeral, to give him a proper sendoff. Before they could carry out the planning, however, what happened next was a scene out of a dramatic movie- the brother, Alfonso, walked right through the front door of the house of the one sister! She shouted over the phone to her other sister, exclaiming that the brother they had thought was dead is very much alive and healthy and that it almost gave her a heart attack. 

However, this newfound relief and happiness quickly turned into sadness, regret, and remorse- they realized that they had given the green light to end the life of a stranger, thinking it was their brother. They shared how they felt with the media and that they were extremely remorseful about deciding everything about someone unknown. However, the police, later on, identified the person with the help of fingerprints and started looking for his family. Everyone involved was deeply disturbed by this incident and thinking that there are no procedures or strategies to ensure such cases do not happen again in the future. However, this is not an isolated incident, as a very similar situation occurred in 2018. 

Many people are worried that as these incidents are recurring, there is no way to avoid this. They are wrong. RightPatient would have helped the situation in reducing such errors. It is a biometric patient identification system which, and with the help of iris scanning modality, it reduces not only any kind of patient identification error but is also safe, convenient, and quick. Since no physical contact is required, all it needs is a glance from the patient for registration and matching- thus being hygienic and easy to use for both patients and physicians. All these features help to enhance patient safety as well as improve the patient experience, reducing claims by 35% and saving a lot of costs of healthcare systems in the process.

him health information management

5 Most Significant Tech Trends In Health Information Management (HIM)

him health information management

Learn about new technologies positively impacting Health Information Management (HIM) departments in healthcare. (Photo courtesy of pexel.com)

The following guest post on trends in Health Information Management (HIM) was submitted by Broadwater.

The sheer power of technology has paved the way for the development of the latest tech systems in Healthcare Information Management (HIM). We have witnessed how the Electronic health systems have gone through many changes over the past few years. These advanced breakthroughs are deployed with a goal to enhance the efficiency of healthcare information management systems, and to promote something that will allow health care facilities to deliver the best possible treatment and care to every patient. Let’s walk through the 5 biggest technological trends that embark a great contribution on modern Healthcare Information Management.

Mobile Access

Imagine this: a physician had to be physically present in the office in order to examine a patients’ case. Gone are those days. Thanks to the rise of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets; more doctors are now able to work remotely, conveniently storing healthcare records over a cloud. This way, they can easily access pertinent information regardless of where they are, through the use of mobile devices. This is especially useful during medical emergencies, where a patient can receive quick and efficient diagnosis and treatment, wherever their doctors are.

Electronic Health Records

While Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) contain patient information about diagnosis and treatment, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) provide a more detailed view of the medical story of the patient, including allergies, previous medications, immunization records, and other relevant data. Through electronic storage of the patient information, health care centers do not only save on paper files, but it also provides a much easier and more convenient access by the health care provider. Thanks to its reliable searchable database that makes finding Healthcare Information Management simpler and more efficient, thus improving the way healthcare services are provided.

Virtual Conferencing

To provide a top-line healthcare service, doctors have to consult with peers. And obtaining a second opinion on patients’ medical records from a peer specialist is a smart way to ensure that patients receive proper diagnosis and treatment. At present, video conferencing makes way for a much easier and more effective consultation. Doctors are now able to speak with other experts around the world in the comfort of their own homes or offices.

Unified Communication Platform

While video conferencing is a great choice to seek outside help, unified communication systems benefit Healthcare Information Management within a medical facility. When multiple nurses and doctors are working on the same patient, it is necessary that every bit of information should be up to date and readily available for everyone’s access. This means that an open line of communication is the key to efficient healthcare service. With a unified communication system, information can be easily updated though text, email, micro-blogging and IM. Most importantly, every member of the team can readily view the thread.

Privacy and Security

One of the most pressing concerns regarding Healthcare Information Management in an online setting is the risks of security issues. In today’s world where every bit of information can be accessed using any device and from any location, it is paramount that healthcare information management teams should take all the essential measures to prevent any issues. Privacy and security can be reinforced thorough password protection, and a strict verification process. The management should have a keen eye for malware, viruses and other attacks that can pose threats to the integrity of the patient information.

Medical science gets more and more cutting-edge in terms of technological development as the years pass by. A high-performing medical tool or a new procedure can make the difference between life and death. Be assured without a doubt there are tremendous changes that await us in the field of Health Information Management.

Author Bio (Broadwater)

Broadwater is a team of dental experts committed to delivering the most comprehensive dental care in the industry. The team uses state-of-the-art dental materials and techniques in order to make sure that you experience comfortable and high quality treatment. With local labs and the finest quality dental materials available such as digital x-rays and intraoral camera, the team carefully chooses techniques that are clinically proven to ensure patients receive the best care. http://broadwaterfamilydental.com/

patient safety in healthcare

LASIK Surgery – Patient Safety and Risks

patient safety in healthcare

Learn more about the safety risks of lasix surgery.

The following guest post on patient safety in healthcare was submitted by Aaron Barriga.

LASIK is a widely adopted procedure to cure minor eye ailments like myopia and hypermetropia. It is a simple technique that makes the use of laser technology to correct the vision of a person. LASIK has been approved by the FDA and is considered safe. A person is treated using LASIK by creating a tiny flap on the surface of the eye and reshaping the exposed cornea gently with help of a laser beam. The procedure is highly accurate and controlled. With a remarkable success rate of 96%, LASIK helps patients achieve 20/20 vision. It is a minimally invasive procedure by which you can be cured of nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Being the most popular form of corrective treatment, LASIK is widely available anywhere across the globe. Over 35 million treatments have been carried out so far.

Positive Results for Lasik Eye Surgery

Though results of undergoing LASIK are not the same for everyone, more than 95% of the people have achieved perfect vision through the treatment. It has been considered as one of the safest vision treatments. After undergoing the LASIK treatment, people have been able to get rid of their contact lenses and glasses permanently. They are able to do all types of daily life activities without experiencing any problems. This has largely improved the quality of their life. There are no precautions to be taken before the surgery and a person can return to routine work, a few days after the treatment.

Temporary Discomfort

Though the treatment is extremely safe and successful, there is some temporary discomfort caused by it. Also, after the LASIK surgery, you have to be very careful with your eyes in order to avoid any risks and complications. The first few days after the treatment are very crucial and if you take proper care of yourself in this time, you will be able to achieve perfect vision without any problem. Below are discomforts that you may encounter after the LASIK procedure. These are temporary problems and are usually cured as your eyes are completely healed:

a. Dry Eye: Reported in only 1.77% of the patients, dry eye is a problem that causes your eyes to dry abnormally. This usually happens as a result of medication and procedures involved in a LASIK surgery. It can be easily cured by eye drops that your doctor provides.

b. Infection: Only one in 10,000 patients experience serious infections following the LASIK treatment. Infections can be easily avoided by taking a few precautions like not letting dust or any foreign particle go inside your eye, wearing sunglasses, etc. If infection occurs, it is best to get in touch with your eye doctor immediately. Any delay can further increase the complications and damage your eyes.

c. Night Vision Problems: As the eyes heal following the surgery, they have high water content. This can cause glare from the light. The problem intensifies at night and, therefore, some people may suffer from light sensitivity which can cause night vision problems. Though chances of having 6-month stage are roughly 0.18%, it can be a great problem once it occurs.

d. LASIK flap complications: With advancements in technology, LASIK flap complications have considerably decreased. Even if the complications occur, there are procedures to minimize the effect and achieve better results.

e. Retreatment: LASIK is a highly successful treatment but still in some cases there may be a need to get retreatment. Every eye is different and heals in a different manner. Some eyes may not get cured in the first treatment and may require some intervention at a later stage to achieve the best results.

The Bottom Line

LASIK is a highly safe procedure for eye treatment. A patient can eliminate the need to depend on contact lenses and glasses after undergoing LASIK. Though LASIK has a high success rate and is extremely safe, it is always good to discuss the risks with your surgeon before you undergo it.

Author Bio:

LASIK Surgery - Patient Safety and RisksAaron Barriga is the online marketing manager for Insight Vision Center. With a knack for understanding medical procedures, and an interest in eye and vision health, Aaron loves to share what he knows and what he learns. He blogs with a mission of informing readers about the latest eye care technology and other topics related to eye care and eye health. He loves collecting coasters from the different bars and restaurants he visits during his travels.