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

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

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

hospital-data-breach-costs-millions

The actual story

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

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

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

The aftermath

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

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

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

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

How do hospitals prevent medical identity theft?

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

rightpatient-benefits-medical-identity-theft-healthcare-red-flags-rule-rightpatient

How RightPatient Benefits Medical Identity Theft and the Healthcare Red Flags Rule

It’s no secret that medical identity theft is on the rise. Over 2 million Americans each year become victims of medical identity theft, and, unfortunately, that number only continues to grow.

It’s growing for a number of reasons. First of all, there were more healthcare data breaches in 2019 than the previous three years combined. These breaches compromised the medical records of over 40 million Americans

Let’s consider this in light of rising healthcare costs and a worsening opioid epidemic. These facts create a ripe market for medical identity theft. Patient identity data is readily available on the black market and there is a ton of demand for it.

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When medical identity theft is perpetrated, patients and healthcare providers suffer. Victims can face bills for services they never received, incorrect treatment data mixed into their medical record can affect future outcomes and quality of care, and the costs to restore their identity can be prohibitive. 

Healthcare providers lose millions of dollars for services that will never be paid for. Increasingly, they also face litigation costs from patient lawsuits for failing to protect their information. 

Providers also face another burden. In 2009, the FTC started to enforce the Red Flags Rule, which requires healthcare providers to develop programs that can help to detect and address situations that are “red flag” indicators of medical identity theft. The goal is to ensure vigilance and reduce the potential costs associated with medical identity theft.

However, implementing red flag processes, keeping them current, and ensuring compliance can be expensive and time consuming for healthcare providers. These processes must also be administered by front-line staff members, typically patient access employees that handle registration. 

This is an enormous responsibility for these employees when considering the potential consequences of medical identity theft. Compliance with red flag rules also places a substantial burden on registrars who are already buried with additional duties such as verifying insurance, collecting payment, and processing patients as efficiently as possible to reduce wait times and improve margins. 

rightpatient-benefits-medical-identity-theft-healthcare-red-flags-rule-rightpatient

Now, against the backdrop of these market realities, imagine if the risk of medical identity theft could be substantially mitigated, if not eliminated altogether. This is where RightPatient comes into play. 

RightPatient validates that patients are who they claim to be when scheduling appointments by comparing a patient’s selfie photo to the photo on her driver’s license or other ID cards. When patients show up for visits, RightPatient accurately identifies them during registration and other points along the care continuum. 

How RightPatient Benefits Medical Identity Theft and the Healthcare Red Flags Rule
How RightPatient Benefits Medical Identity Theft and the Healthcare Red Flags Rule

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

RightPatient creates a closed-loop platform to prevent medical identity theft and other errors that can impact patient safety, revenue cycle, and data quality. This saves a lot of time, money, and hassle for patients and healthcare providers.

why-coronavirus-makes-patient-identification-more-critical-than-ever-rightpatient-featured-img

Why The Coronavirus Makes Patient Identification More Critical Than Ever

In case you’ve been sleeping under a rock somewhere, the COVID-19 coronavirus is causing global concern, with some health professionals and media outlets already referring to the outbreak as a pandemic. 

The lack of available testing kits in the U.S. has hindered our ability to accurately determine the actual scale of the problem here. However, as of this writing, we do know that coronavirus has infected more than 108,000 people globally, with nearly 600 cases in the U.S. and 22 deaths. 

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Source: Pixabay

With the virus continuing to spread in the U.S., those experiencing symptoms are being advised to call their healthcare provider. While many healthcare providers and states are preparing to handle the growing outbreak, many patients are seeking treatment at emergency rooms where the risk of spreading the virus to other patients and health workers can increase dramatically.

In addition, some patients that do not meet certain testing criteria may not be immediately diagnosed as having coronavirus. Accurate patient identification is absolutely critical in these circumstances to help contain the growth of coronavirus infections. 

Imagine a patient who arrives at the ER with respiratory symptoms but does not meet the testing criteria. The patient could be treated without needed precautions and released. If the patient returned later with worsening or other symptoms and was misidentified, the clinical team would not have access to critical information that could immediately trigger the prerequisites of a coronavirus infection, putting every person in that facility at even greater risk. 

why-coronavirus-makes-patient-identification-more-critical-than-ever-rightpatient

Source: Pixabay

Biometric patient identification can certainly help to prevent these mistakes. However, the type of biometric technology being utilized can have significant consequences. For example, healthcare providers using contact-dependent devices such as palm vein biometrics may risk exacerbating the spread of the coronavirus. That particular modality requires patients to place their entire hand on a plastic mold to read their vein pattern. 

Under the current market conditions, would you want to touch that device, especially knowing that every other patient was being instructed to do the same? 

At a minimum, healthcare workers would need to disinfect the device after every patient encounter. This is not a practical or safe approach. 

IT companies in Hyderabad India have actually been instructed to suspend use of fingerprint biometric systems for employees as standard operating procedure if the coronavirus is detected on their premises. If this is being advised for employee time and attendance in an IT company, will healthcare providers continue to ask each and every patient to touch a biometric device across their locations? If not, how will the risk of patient misidentification contribute to the spread of coronavirus?

Since our inception, we have advocated for using the RightPatient platform with our photo-based engine. This was based on 18 years of experience in biometric software and our vision for the company. We are now the leader in this space with many providers using our platform. 

Why The Coronavirus Makes Patient Identification More Critical Than Ever
Why The Coronavirus Makes Patient Identification More Critical Than Ever

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

One factor involved in our decision-making process was hygiene and infection control. Our photo-based biometric patient authentication platform does not require patients to touch anything, which is ideal in a healthcare environment even under normal market conditions, but particularly now in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus. 

Our mission is to prevent medical identity theft and duplicate medical records to mitigate risk for healthcare providers while improving patient safety, data quality, and revenue cycle. Especially now, accurate patient identification is critically important but providers should think about the risks of a contact-dependent solution. They should also consider the experience, vision, and track record of their vendor to select a trusted partner that will always keep them ahead of the curve.

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Proper Patient Identification Can Help Fight the Opioid Crisis

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

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

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

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

The biggest challenges- data quality and patient matching errors

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

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

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

Can proper patient identification be the answer?

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

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How Do Progressive Hospitals Prevent Medical Identity Theft?

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

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What is medical identity theft?

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

How does it affect patients and hospitals?

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

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

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

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

How do hospitals prevent medical identity theft?

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

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Medical Identity Theft Prevention Enhances Patient Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

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

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

patient-identification-prevents-readmissions

2583 hospitals hit with penalties due to readmission reduction program

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

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

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

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

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Another industry expert in favor of an effective patient identifier

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

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

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

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

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

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

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

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

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

Source: Making the Case for National Unique Patient ID

unique patient identifier in healthcare

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

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

unique patient identifier in healthcare

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

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

What happened previously?

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

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

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

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

Some statistics

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

What should be the unique patient identifier in healthcare?

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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