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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Patient safety issues occur due to EHR misidentifications

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

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

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

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

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

Restricted information results in wrong medications

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

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

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

Missed doses of medications occur due to problematic information displays

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

Duplicate patient IDs are created

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

Medical ID thefts take place

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

What can be the solution to patient safety issues?

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

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

patient matching improvements

Hospitals are Prioritizing Patient Matching Accuracy

Patient identification has been haunting the healthcare industry since its inception. Using the existing practices in the industry, accuracy rates are significantly low and cannot be used to exchange health data effectively, as reported by officials from different healthcare systems such as hospitals and physicians. The industry is in dire need of patient matching improvement. 

patient matching accuracy

However, the above report is not the only one- other statements point towards the same conclusion of requiring patient matching improvement, as per the research brief from Pew Charitable Trusts. A study was conducted by Pew researchers along with Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative (MAeHC) that sought to identify the current situation of patient identification in the healthcare industry. They did so by collecting information from different healthcare executives with the use of interviews. Another aspect of the study was to identify how to achieve patient matching improvement. The sample of this study was healthcare experts and influential figures from various practices and sizes who served numerous patients in diverse regions all over the country.

A vast majority of the sample expressed the same view- patient identification and matching were quite inaccurate and desperately needs an overhaul, thanks to the increasing demand for interoperability.

Healthcare providers are now motivated to exchange more health data due to the recent CMS Promoting Interoperability program. That’s not all! CMS is also going to be granting incentives to accountable care organizations (ACOs) who will show savings through activities which support care coordination.

According to the Pew researchers, healthcare systems like hospitals and clinicians eligible for these programs need to exchange information with others so that all of the parties have the latest patient data from other various institutions.

The hospital officials stated that it is quite challenging to measure the match rates, resulting in their efforts being ineffective to examine and improve the patient identification rates. They also had difficulty providing a number when asked for the identification rates within their organizations. This was because many hospitals only keep a record of the duplicates identified through EHRs, whereas others do not know which files are relevant and which are unlinked.  Thus, without knowing the actual number of correct matches, these healthcare systems cannot determine their match rates. Therefore, only the amount of misidentifications was provided by them, thus summarizing the research.

It was also identified that healthcare systems could easily match patient identities when asked by organizations they are in constant contact with. Both automated and manual processes are utilized to link records to the correct individual.

However, whenever it is an organization with whom the healthcare system is not in contact with regularly, match rates are inclined to be lower. This is because these unsolicited requests introduce more blockades because the healthcare system may not have a record of that individual, and the healthcare system uses automated processes for such applications. On top of that, the research also showed that urban areas require better identification rates compared to rural areas as not much-sharing activities take place in the latter.

Some healthcare executives also think that improved patient identification matching requires significant costs. However, many believe that biometric patient identification is the solution to improve matching rates and is worth the cost. Some hospitals are even utilizing iris scanning solutions like RightPatient to identify all their patients and pull their relevant data from their EHRs and show a significant change. They report that it is fast, accurate and improves the overall patient experience as well as speeding up the whole process and saving valuable time of the physicians so that they can concentrate on more critical tasks such as the patients themselves.

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HIMSS 2019 – Interoperability Showcase; What Is the Foundation of Interoperability?

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HIMSS19 Global Conference & Exhibition, Orlando, FL

On the last day before leaving, I decided to stop by the interoperability pavilion at HIMSS – this was one of the busiest and well-presented parts of the show. The section, showcased by the VA (US Veteran Administration), was very extravagant – you usually see such displays from any of the federal government agencies only in Washington D.C. The VA is definitely a front-runner in interoperability – they are the first one to initiate the blue button program to share medical records. The jam-packed area with vendors and exuberant people from all corners of the HealthCare industry clearly shows the importance of the mission. As I was snapping a selfie, Andy Pincsak from Phillips Health jumped in & joined my memory lane – I thought it was a very nice and friendly gesture! Why can’t we all be like that with each other?

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Snapping a selfie with Andy Pincsak from Phillips Health

HIMSS 2019 – Interoperability Showcase; What Is the Foundation of Interoperability?

The HIMSS Interoperability Showcase™ was the highest trafficked area of the exhibit floor

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Innovative Solutions on the Exhibit Floor

Why Is Interoperability Such a Big Deal?

The fundamental premise of interoperability is to share data between organizations – so a patient can move from provider to provider and his/her data can be seamlessly shared between the providers. This is very serious because an average American with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, sees multiple physicians from various organizations. To orchestrate a meaningful treatment regimen to such patients, it’s imperative that each of these providers has real-time visibility of each patient’s care-cycle. Hence, interoperability is extremely crucial.

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Innovation Live brought together startups, accelerators, and other innovative companies to showcase the future of healthcare IT

What’s the Fundamental Flaw in the Healthcare Interoperability Movement?

For interoperability to be successful, the providers must match and identify the patient as they move between the organizations – to be clear, your social security number is the unique identifier. But in healthcare, every organization assigns its own unique numbers to each patient. Therefore, how will organization A notify organization B that John Joe with ID “DX213” is the same “John Doe” with ID “74537”? Currently, this is done using fuzzy match. However, on an average 8% of the time, a patient is registered under a different name – I am serious – this is called a duplicate patient record. Since many people have common names and there is no social security number in their health record, a simple mistyping – usually called fat finger – causes the creation a different record for a patient that already has a record. Therefore, how in the world can all these providers really work in harmony and share data with such a mess? It does not take a rocket scientist to understand these issues. To achieve real interoperability, we need clean and uncorrupted data.

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HIMSS Interoperability Showcase

Is There Any Solution Without Using a Social Security Number?

Of course there is. Since we can’t rely on names and names also change, we can easily add patient biometric data with each medical record. Once a patient is tagged with his/her biometrics, they will always be identified with just biometrics. Basically, a patient will just walk into a provider’s office, have their biometrics taken and the system will find the record with biometrics. Now, if all providers are using a photo based system like RightPatient, then the patient can move between whole ecosystems without ever worrying about ending up with corrupted data. Why we are not using our natural identifier to protect our health and implement seamless interoperability?

Patient Identification Errors

Prevent Patient Record Mix-Ups Before It’s Too Late

 

It’s no secret that patient identification is a challenge, but unfortunately, a frightening number of “wrong patient, right procedure” mix-ups still occur every day in hospitals and health systems around the country.

For example, an article published on bostonglobe.com highlighted a case at UMass Memorial Medical Center where a patient was mistakenly diagnosed with cancer and underwent unneeded medical procedures before hospital staff discovered a mix-up with the patient’s CT scan results. And, according to the article, this is far from an isolated case of mistaken patient identity at this hospital.

The good news is that there are tools that can help hospitals and health systems prevent such dangerous mistakes.

The RightPatient® Cloud, for example, is designed to prevent mix-ups and cases of mistaken identity by streamlining patient identification procedures and reducing the risk of human error—all while dramatically increasing the chances that that the right patient receives the right treatment from the right providers.

Most hospitals and health systems rely solely on patient identification procedures that require healthcare staff to use two pieces of patient information, such as full name and date of birth, to match patients to their medical records.

However, in today’s bustling healthcare atmosphere, it can be easy for healthcare staff to forget to perform proper patient identification procedures. And, many patients do not speak English, are unconscious or have similar names and birth dates, all of which increase the risk of medical mix-ups.

Healthcare regulators and public health officials are increasingly sending the message to hospitals and health systems that the time to make changes to patient identification procedures is now—before a potentially disastrous mistake occurs. 

By implementing the RightPatient system, hospitals can eliminate patient identification guesswork for healthcare staff. That’s because the RightPatient system captures a photo of each patient upon admission to the hospital.

After the patient is enrolled in the system, the patient’s medical record is locked and can only be opened using the patient’s unique biometric identifiers. The system can be installed on any smartphone or tablet, making it portable enough to meet the unique needs of staff and patients.

Although hospitals are spending millions of dollars on electronic health record systems, population health software and other advanced equipment to protect patients and streamline operations, most of these systems overlook a fundamental aspect of patient safety: Ensuring that healthcare staff are accessing the right records and providing the right care to the right patient.

Prevent Patient Record Mix-Ups Before It's Too Late

  • The bottom line is that healthcare consumers go to hospitals to get well and hard-working doctors and nurses do everything in their power to make that happen. When patients are not identified correctly, bad things happen.
  • The sad fact is that one simple medical record mix-up resulting from a patient mismatch is all that it takes to throw a patient and their family into distress, negate the hard work and dedication of the doctors and nurses who are trying to help, and damage the reputation of the hospital where the incident occurred.

With RightPatient, all that is required to eliminate these risks is a simple snap of a camera when a patient walks into the hospital. That doesn’t sound like too much to ask, does it?

how to increase patient safety in healthcare

The Last 10 Years: How Technology Has Increased Patient Safety

how to increase patient safety in healthcare

Advances in health IT have increased patient safety in healthcare.

The following guest post on how health IT technology has increased patient safety in healthcare was submitted by Hannah Whittenly.

With healthcare demand growing in an aging population, medicine has become a competitive field. It’s increasingly difficult for administrators and staff to manage facilities and costs while still maintaining quality and safety in patient care. Thankfully, new technologies over the past decade are helping to keep patients protected. Here are just a few of them:

Image Archives
Picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) are cross-platform, online repositories for medical imaging records like x-rays and MRIs. PACS enables file sharing so that medical consultants and specialists from anywhere in the world can review diagnostic imaging in moments. Even within the same facility, all physicians and nurses are looking at one common, complete set of medical images.

Patients can accumulate quite a lot of these images over a lifetime of medical care. New PACS systems can automatically archive older images that are no longer relevant and organize new ones. Shared, updated information leads to faster diagnoses and more effective treatments.

Bar Codes and RFID

Bar codes and RFID chips are a way to instantly provide information. While they’ve been around for a while, mobile apps and better optical and radio frequency scanners are making them incredibly convenient. Bar codes or chips can be affixed to equipment, bottles of medication, patient beds, entry and exit points, and even patient and employee badges.
Strategically placed scanners can record and track movements so that nothing is misplaced and workflows can be analyzed for better efficiency. Monitoring also helps to provide better physical security for staff and patients. In emergencies, wandering patients or needed staff members or equipment can be almost instantly located.

Health Information Technology

Modern HIT systems are becoming praised as the solution to streamlining hospital practices. Efficient digital record keeping and reporting is helping to eliminate medical errors that were once a source of concern for patients, administrators, and insurers. Mistakes sometimes led to a patient being forced to undergo needless surgeries or treatment, or given the wrong medication.
Unique patient IDs associated with electronic records have helped to overcome this problem. Sinus and allergy tests and treatments, like those that Premier Surgical Associates does, improve the quality of life for patients of all ages, and now become permanent records for future reference. Every detail in any treatment is electronically documented to keep records updated and provide opportunities for analysis and improvement.

Biometric Patient Identifiers

There are a few areas of the human body that are unique to individuals: fingerprints and iris patterns for example. Because those areas are completely unique, they can actually be used to identify a person. This is important in the case of death, hospital emergencies, and in the case of a missing person situation. Although technology has been being used to track fingerprints for a while now, iris cameras are becoming more available and are being used as biometric patient identifiers.

Due to the fact that such devices require that a patient willingly interacts with the technology, acceptance is a key part of any biometric patient identification deployment. It is critical that healthcare organizations that deploy biometrics for patient identification offer a clear and transparent explanation to patients that the technology is in place to protect their identities and help prevent medical errors.

Though technology continues to evolve, once proven and put in place it provides advantages and consistent results. Today’s medical technology is developing into a reliable system for improving care and patient safety.

Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys kayaking and reading books by the lake.

use photo biometrics to identify patients and prevent medical errors

Are Children Eligible to Enroll in Biometric Patient ID Solutions?

protect a child's medical identity with biometric patient ID

A patient access representative takes a photo of a child using an iris recognition camera to protect her medical identity.

The rapid spread of using biometric patient ID solutions has helped to increase safety, reduce duplicate medical records, eliminate healthcare fraud, and strengthen patient data integrity. As most healthcare providers who implement biometrics for patient ID quickly realize – patient participation is the most important factor to ensure deployment success and realize the strongest return on investment.

Traditionally, we see the use of biometrics as a strong security solution to protect our own medical identities, but what about children? Are they eligible to enroll in a biometric patient ID platform and realize the same protection as adults? The short answer is: It depends on the biometric patient identification solution that you select.

Often overlooked as a key demographic that is just as susceptible to the perils of medical identity theft and inaccurate identification, protecting a child’s medical identity is just as, if not more important than protecting our own identities. On a recent podcast with Eva Velasquez, President and CEO of The Identity Theft Resource Center, I asked Eva how important it is to protect a child’s medical identity and what is the earliest age that a child can have their medical identity stolen? Here is what she said:

“Protecting a child’s medical identity is definitely a growing concern in healthcare. And, it isn’t only protecting their medical identity but their identity as a whole. People generally do not believe that (medical ID theft) is a crime that affects children, but I can tell you that we (Identity Theft Resource Center) handle and re mediate cases of child ID theft on a daily basis. It’s really about ensuring that a child’s personal information doesn’t make it into the hands of a thief. The crux of the problem with child medical ID theft is the time of discovery…the most common ways that people find out they are victims of ID theft is because they are trying to accomplish something and they hit a barrier.

If you think about it, children just don’t engage with the outside world the same way adults do – they aren’t out applying for credit, trying to get a driver’s license (before the age of 16) and go through background checks. All of these external things that pop up and make us take notice of our identities, they just don’t happen with children, so that’s where it becomes a parent’s responsibility. For parents, it’s all about taking as many proactive steps as you can. Some states allow you to freeze your child’s credit, and you can certainly always request your child’s medical records to go through them and ensure their accuracy. As a parent, you need to read the Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) after your child has a pediatric visit.”

I then asked Eva what the earliest age is that a child can have their medical identity stolen. She offered this response:

“I hate to say this because it almost sounds like fear mongering but it’s absolutely true – it can actually be before the child is born. If a criminal just decides to make up a social security number that hasn’t been issued yet and starts to use it, it doesn’t necessarily make it back to the social security administration office so your child is born, you go to get a social security number issued to them and you receive it but a criminal has already been using it – so child ID theft can actually happen before they are born.”

Clearly, there is a sense of urgency to ensure a child’s medical identity is protected from the moment they are born! The problem that some healthcare providers face who have implemented certain biometric hardware modalities for patient ID is that not all are eligible for children to enroll. Instead, some biometric patient ID solution providers recommend that a child not enroll until they reach a certain age, or until certain physiological attributes are mature enough to be recognized by a hardware device. This essentially excludes children from leveraging the identity protection and security advantages of using biometric patient ID for identification at the age where they may perhaps be most vulnerable to having their identities stolen. 

The key for any healthcare provider seeking to implement biometrics for patient ID is to deploy a solution that has the ability to capture a child’s unique biometric profile at the youngest age possible and then use that as their identity credential for the rest of their lives without the inconvenience of re-enrolling as a child matures or the security risks of not being eligible to enroll at all.

Protecting a child’s medical identity is among the many reasons that we recommend the use of photo biometrics for patient identification in healthcare. Children as young as 10 months old can enroll and since the iris is a human physiological attribute that forms at 10 months of age and remains static throughout our lifetimes, it represents a viable and stable credential for accurate identification. 

As more healthcare organizations around the world evaluate the use of biometrics for patient identification, it is critical that all possible patient options and scenarios are addressed to maximize return on investment and ensure that any patient, no matter how young or old, can take advantage of the benefits to protect their medical identities. 

For a full version of our podcast with Eva Velasquez, President and CEO of The Identity Theft Resource Center, click here.