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improving-patient-safety

Healthcare’s most significant issue- Improving patient safety

Whenever medical records do not match with patients and are out of sync, all kinds of problems occur for everyone involved, both physically and financially. Keeping this in mind, patient matching errors seem never-ending. Is there a solution? Is there anything which will help in improving patient safety?

improving-patient-safety

A look at what patient matching errors are capable of

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

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

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

Problems associated with patient safety issues

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

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

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

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What other problems arise from patient matching errors?

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

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

What is the solution for improving patient safety?

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

improved-patient-outcomes

Patient engagement is the key to improved patient outcomes

Why might any healthcare provider contact their patients after their discharge? It’s simple- to encourage patient engagement so that the patients can be proactive and thus healthier, which in turn causes improved patient outcomes and lowers readmission rates, simultaneously reducing costs

improved-patient-outcomes

There’s a catch to this- if it’s so easy, why is effective patient engagement still out of reach for most healthcare providers? Let’s analyze.

A recent survey consisting of several healthcare systems sheds light on some interesting facts- 70% of the participants stated that less than half of their patients are involved in engagement activities, whereas a mere 9% said that they observe more than 75% effective patient engagement. 

Why are some successful and some unfortunate? It mostly reflects the fact that many are still confused by what patient engagement means. Many think that patient engagement refers to just giving a patient a scheduled time and making sure they know the patient’s name, and that’s all- but that is a far cry from what patient engagement entails.

Patient engagement refers to the healthcare provider learning about the patient’s interests, medical records, background, and anything relevant that is there to know about the patient as much as possible. What do the healthcare systems do with such data? They provide customizable tools to the patients which can be used for active patient engagement– to ensure improved patient outcomes and experience. There are many tools already available at the disposal of the healthcare providers to use for active patient engagement like CircleCare. Thus, patient engagement means providing a patient with tools and facilities which the patient can then use or participate in, if he/she chooses, to ensure better health and lead a healthier lifestyle, with its primary goal being improved patient outcomes and better patient retention rates.

Patient engagement is the key to improved patient outcomes

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Even large and reputed healthcare systems sometimes need the assistance of such tools for patient engagement, which is reflected in the survey’s findings. There are many examples that tell the same story repeatedly- a reputed healthcare system thinking that it was providing entirely satisfactory patient engagement until it started looking at the results and then teaming up with an external party who understands patient engagement better, and later on, the healthcare system actually seeing marked improvements because of using the new tools.

With the extensive knowledge and technical know-how of such third parties regarding patient engagement technologies, these healthcare providers saw that instead of using conventional facilities like patient portals, which can be clunky, unresponsive, and tedious to use, the patients used tools like apps which are available for both tablets and smartphones. The patients not only use it for better health and checking their records, but they also use it to communicate with their providers, exchanging crucial information, if required.

According to a healthcare official, patient engagement is very integral to their services, and they need it to ensure they have a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship with their patients. Such tools like CircleCare provide the window to ensure active engagement. Using CircleCare, patients can easily communicate with their doctors to let them know of any discomfort or updates in real-time. 

CircleCare is a patient retention app which doubles as a patient engagement app. It ensures maximum patient engagement, as it has features like tracking steps, recording blood glucose level, recording blood pressure, and also scheduling and reminding one about medicine. Not only that, it has all the features previously mentioned above, like communicating with physicians, exchanging information in real-time, and so on. Best of all, if the patient maintains an active, healthy lifestyle, which is shown as the patient completes “goals” and earns points within the app, they can also win exciting prizes which they can exchange with the coins. Once a healthcare provider subscribes to the app, they can direct the patient to download and use them for active patient engagement, ensuring lower patient readmission rates due to positive outcomes. 

unidentified-patient-identification-error

Patient identification error causes yet another grave mistake

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

unidentified-patient-identification-error

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

physician-listening-to-patient

Can hospitals achieve better patient outcomes through patient engagement tools?

Let’s face it- no patient thinks about going home and logging into a web portal. It is ancient at this point. During a recent event focusing on all things related to healthcare improvement, that was the opinion shared by a respected healthcare official. The rest of the executives from different healthcare systems who were participating with him nodded in agreement. On the contrary, they laughed, because they are accepting the fact that patient portals are just not practical. Not only for this small group of officials but by now, it is common knowledge that such patient portals did not turn out to be one of the effective patient engagement tools as they were once hoped to be. Where did it go wrong? What’s next? If this didn’t push patient engagement, what kind of patient engagement tool will? These are the questions on the minds making up the healthcare system.

physician-listening-to-patient

During the event, the group sat down and had a lengthy discussion regarding healthcare and patient engagement tools, and the following are some of the critical things that were revealed.

Patient engagement is of utmost importance

This was stated by all of the executives present. Patient engagement is one of the top three organizational objectives for them. They also believe the fact that their organization’s value patient engagement as they see patients who are more participative to have better health outcomes than those who don’t, along with increased satisfaction, retention, and revenue.

Priorities are not reflected in the results

Another notable finding during this discussion was that there is a massive difference between the amount of importance healthcare systems place on patient engagement and the level of results they deem successful- they interpret 15% as a good number. One may then ask, how can such a vast difference between objectives and results be possible? One official from a healthcare system said that they need to be completely digital regarding everything being done in their hospital- from the moment the patient decides to use their services until the follow-ups are complete. Naturally, they require a patient portal which the healthcare providers have, and they observe approximately 15% of patient engagement through it, which they believe is more than an acceptable number.

Even though considering such a small number as success is very peculiar, it is not uncommon. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology states that less than one-third of the patients who had access to portals used it only one or two times per year. The ones who did not use the portals had a variety of reasons- they wanted to speak with their healthcare providers directly, did not deem it necessary enough to view their records online, were worried about the safety and privacy of the portals, or could not use them due to various issues.

Can hospitals achieve better patient outcomes through patient engagement tools?

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Not enough advancements in patient engagement tools

The healthcare officials who were present in the event think that the motivation for effective patient engagement needs to come from the patients themselves. However, as the findings specified already, it is not always in the hands of the patients themselves, but in the hands of the healthcare providers- the latter are the ones who develop the patient engagement tools, strategies, and technologies to support them. For instance, no matter how participative a patient is willing to be, he/she will not be able to effectively engage with the healthcare provider if the patient portal is complex, faulty, or inefficient. Another drawback the officials stated was the perception of patients regarding the portals’ contents and features- if they were inconsistent and irrelevant, patients would not use them.

 Another official added that even though patient engagement is a top priority for any healthcare system, the ones running them do not utilize the tools available to make better use of technology and come up with something more innovative and productive than patient portals. They do not invest in the necessary places and do not hire the people who can bring about a change to patient engagement tools.

Is patient engagement actually possible?

Yes, of course. Patient portals may be clunky, complicated, and the fact that people use their browsers less nowadays does not help the matter. No, the solution lies somewhere else. People are always on their phones using apps, and this is the key- a patient engagement app like CircleCare. The patients do not need to go to browsers and sign in; all they need to do is unlock their phones and tap on the app- they are in! CircleCare is an app which helps the patient stay fit- it can track their steps, schedule alerts for their medicine, and record their blood glucose level as well as their blood pressure, thus, helping them to stay proactive and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Not only that, but the app also connects the patients with their physicians so that they can communicate with each other whenever required- to share critical information, updates, tips, and additional information regarding their health can be exchanged. Once the hospital subscribes to the app, all the patients need to do is download it and use it, which will not only help them maintain a healthy lifestyle, but also ensure active patient engagement, and as a result, hospital readmission rates will go down due to better patient outcomes and active patient engagement.

patient engagement solutions motivate physicians

How patient engagement solutions benefit physicians

The number of patients who seek treatments for their ailments at retail clinics is continuously increasing. Also, mid-level staff and nurse practitioners are getting the chance to handle everyday clinical care. These may indicate that primary care physicians have lessened pressure, but the reality is entirely the opposite- they have to handle an unprecedented level of stress. So, where do patient engagement solutions fit in? Let’s analyze.

patient engagement solutions motivate physicians

These summaries were found after conducting a study. It included information from medical bills as well as relevant EHR data, where 4900 primary care practices were visited by 5 million patients 40 million times. This study found primarily two things in its duration:

  • 6% increase in average work performed was witnessed during each visit
  • 10% increase in the average number of recorded diagnoses each visit

However, some may be skeptical and think that these numbers are inflated, saying the sample healthcare providers may have meddled with the recorded data due to requirements of Medicare rules and contracts which are risk-based. On the other hand, the more optimistic people feel that primary physicians are working harder per patient, and their reasoning is simple- these physicians are handling the more complex cases because the easier ones are being pushed out to others.

A healthcare official from a renowned hospital has stated the same- the patients with less severe cases, like a running nose, go to the nearest clinics, whereas the complicated cases have insurance and thus line up for primary physicians. The official explained that the patients they treat are the ones with complex health issues like diabetes, hypertension, and heart failure, as well as depression, and even if they come with a small problem, they need to keep these other complex diseases in mind while treating them. Thus, the more complex the situation and the condition, the more tests and consultations are required.

Usually, such pressure can cause burnout within the physicians, that too without the help of patient engagement solutions which may have eased their situations. Conversely, many feel that they actually enjoy those patients who need their care and this makes such stress worth it. Nevertheless, they do not enjoy switching from complex to uncomplicated patients repeatedly, as it disrupts their workflow.

How patient engagement solutions benefit physicians

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Also, even if these primary physicians are not handling the more uncomplicated cases, they still need to review some of them and participate in the decision-making process. Thus, the primary care physicians have a lot on their plates, and all of this creates dissatisfaction, burnout, turnover, early retirement- all of which is undesirable by the healthcare industry.

What can be done to reduce this stress? To keep the physicians more involved and engaged with their patients, the healthcare systems can use patient engagement solutions like CircleCare. This app helps the physicians to be in contact with the more complex patients once they are discharged, and both parties can provide essential updates to each other. The physician can also offer advice for small ailments the patients face. On the other hand, the patients will be able to record their blood glucose level, blood pressure, track their steps, schedule medicine, and so on. These features will not only help the patients to maintain their health but also provide this data to the physicians whenever required without hassle, thus providing motivation to these hardworking physicians for achieving better patient outcomes. Once the hospital is registered with the service, the patient only needs to download the app, and he/she’s connected with the healthcare provider and the physician for engagement, which will help to keep them healthy, and thus increase the patient retention rate.

patient experience improvement causes satisfied patients

Process Improvement Methodologies are used for Patient Experience Improvement

Healthcare organizations are continually pursuing ways to improve their processes to enhance the patient experience they provide. However, the biggest problem is that they need to measure patient experience improvement, and there is no specific way to do so. The challenge is to gain access to timely and relevant data. Nevertheless, in spite of this roadblock, they have found another way to measure their success.

patient experience improvement causes satisfied patients

According to a survey, the participating healthcare systems have stated that the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) or similar CMS surveys are their most preferred tools to track the patient experience provided. These are followed by phone calls made before a patient’s discharge and assistance from third-parties, or non-CMS surveys.

These healthcare providers have also increased their use of social media monitoring because of their needs for accurate and timely patient experience data, which is why using these methodologies do not seem that surprising. The number of healthcare systems utilizing process improvement methodologies is higher than the ones who do not use it, and the former ones stated that HCAHPS or CMS surveys are their preferred way of both tracking and measuring their organization’s success or failure regarding the patient experience they provide.

Moreover, the number of respondents who said they use tracking and are using it for process improvement methodologies is higher compared to those respondents who do not, with in-house surveys being an exception. This shows the amount of emphasis placed on performance measurement by process improvement, which no doubt the respondents believe leads to patient experience improvement.

They may have used several process improvements, like enhancing the patient identification system, since patient identification is a recurring problem in most healthcare systems, as 8% of the medical records are duplicates on average. Some hospitals are utilizing biometric patient identification like RightPatient, which does enhance the whole process, as physicians can focus on more critical tasks rather than take time identifying the patients. All of this ultimately leads to the healthcare systems providing a personalized patient experience.

These healthcare systems are correct in placing their trust in process improvement methodologies, and the report reflects that. It is favorable for patients and healthcare providers alike, as 87% of the respondents stated that their organizations had experienced significant improvements in the HCAHPS scores or similar measurements, which is a clear indicator of the efforts they have made to enhance the patient experience in response to their previous scores.

The report’s breakdown is as follows: 13% of respondents have observed significant improvements, 44% have noticed moderate gains, and 30% have experienced minor improvements, while 5% saw no increase.

Process Improvement Methodologies are used for Patient Experience Improvement

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However, the results reveal another aspect- there is a positive correlation between patient experience improvement and the use of such process improvement methodologies. A large number of respondents (16%) have stated that they experienced significantly improved HCAHPS scores after using the methods compared to those who did not use them (6%). Likewise, moderate improvements were noticed by a large number of respondents (47%) who used the process improvement methodologies compared to those who did not (36%). Accordingly, the respondents who did not use such methods are far higher in number (10%) than those who used it (3%) and reported that they did not see any improvements.

How are the healthcare systems improving their patient experience significantly? Other than process improvements, they can also utilize technology to enhance the patient experience further. They can use apps like CircleCare. It is a patient retention app used by hospitals for active patient engagement. Once a hospital subscribes, they can instruct the patient to use it for various purposes like communication with the hospital, keeping track of their steps, recording their glucose levels, scheduling their medicine, and receiving valuable health tips within the app. All these activities not only help to improve patient engagement but also cause patient experience improvement, resulting in an increase in patient retention rates due to better patient outcomes.

patient engagement

Patient Engagement and Patient Experience help reducing hospital readmissions

Patient engagement refers to the concept of the patient’s behavior where he/she proactively participates with the healthcare provider, whereas patient experience is a concept which encompasses the range of interactions that patients have with the different tiers of the healthcare system such as interactions with doctors, nurses, and staff in hospitals, or basically the whole healthcare system. Some people use it interchangeably because both are linked together and are used towards achieving a common goal- reducing hospital readmissions.

doctor actively participating in patient engagement for reducing hospital readmission

Patient Engagement

Patient engagement is a concept which deals with patient activation, which is mostly empowering the patient so that the patient feels like they can take an informed decision about their healthcare to improve treatment outcome, lower costs, and also help provide more efficient patient care. This also rests in the hands of the healthcare system, as they are the ones who encourage patient engagement in the first place. There is also a framework for patient engagement, which is as follows:

  1. Shared Decision-Making Stage: In this stage, the patient is informed about his/her condition, and the patient participates in the decision-making process along with the healthcare provider. This approach is used mostly for patients whose situation is more preference sensitive.
  2. Patient Activation: In this stage, the patients are more aware and understand their situation as they know their condition. Research among 30,000 patients at Fairview health services in Minnesota suggests that patients with a lower level of understanding about their condition incurred 8% – 21% more costs in healthcare. Thus, this step of active involvement of the patient to treat their situation is the stage called patient activation. However, it does require the assistance of the healthcare systems, as they have accurate information regarding the patients.
  3. Broader Patient Engagement: This step is more about mass awareness creation and social interpretations of patient engagement. The concerned parties are to influence patient participation in such a way that it helps the masses; they try to educate the masses about their conditions so that they can make informed consensual decisions about their healthcare with respect to their healthcare providers.

Patient Experience

Patient experience refers to the number of interactions patients have with the healthcare system. It includes their care from health plans, and doctors, nurses, and staff in hospitals, physician practices, and other healthcare facilities. It is a core aspect of healthcare quality and is used to help measure a healthcare system’s ranking- the better the patient experience, the better the healthcare system, and vice versa. It also consists of components which patients value highly, like appointments, the hospital itself, the care they receive – basically everything associated with the healthcare provider. This is the basic concept of the patient experience. Healthcare providers use a combination of tools to enhance the patient experience. For example, to have an edge over other healthcare systems, many uses biometric patient identification like RightPatient, which matches the patient with their EHRs using iris scanning.

The link between Patient Engagement and Patient Experience

There are several factors which can interlink patient engagement and patient experience amongst them. A few are mentioned below:

  • Better patient engagement and experience lead to better patient satisfaction.
  • Better patient engagement and experience offer better value for patients’ money.
  • Better patient engagement leads directly to better patient experience.
  • Better follow up results in positive patient experience.
  • Patient engagement makes having a better patient experience more comfortable for the patient.
  • The liability of informed consent is divided between the patient and the caregiver, which affects the patient experience positively.
  • Better patient experience and better engagement go hand in hand in the financial aspects of the healthcare system as they help reducing hospital readmissions.
  • Patient Engagement and Patient Experience help reducing hospital readmissions

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Effects on the hospital readmission rate

  • Better engagement and experience relate to better reputation buildup of the hospital, which affects readmission rates by reducing hospital readmissions.
  • Better engagement leads to more effective treatment, which reduces risk-standardized readmissions.
  • Better overall patient experience will result in the patient choosing the hospital over other hospitals in case of another condition of him/her or a family member.
  • Better engagement and experience lead to patient satisfaction, which results in a reduction of risk-based readmissions and increases reputation-based readmissions.
  • With better patient engagement, patients are acquainted with the treatment plans and procedures correctly, which results in lowering risk-based readmission as well.
  • Involvement of the hospital staff leads to better mental satisfaction in the patient as well, which results in better word of mouth reputation, and also leads to more effective treatment, which helps in reducing hospital readmissions.

Many healthcare providers are very successfully providing both positive patient experience and increased patient engagement. For enhanced patient experience, RightPatient is the choice of many for biometric patient identification, which speeds up the overall process, helping the hospital staff to save significant time identifying the incoming patients so that they can put resources to better use in critical tasks. Patient engagement has a lot of tools, as well. However, the recent trend is to use apps like CircleCare, a patient retention app with a lot of benefits for both the patients as well as the healthcare systems. It can track steps, provide reminders regarding medicine, record glucose levels, blood pressure, as well as help the patients communicate with their healthcare providers. After the hospital subscribes to the app, the patient only needs to download it and use it, not only to communicate with their physicians but also for better health, which will help with patient engagement as well as provide better patient outcomes by reducing hospital readmissions, creating a win-win situation for all.

Scanning a patient for identification

Hospitals Need a Better Patient Matching System to Identify “John Does”

Patient identification or lack thereof is a topic which we hear about every day. We always read news about mistaken patient identities due to mix-ups, frauds, insufficient patient matching system, etc. What about those who arrive at the hospitals and are never identified? Let’s look at these John Does but from a different angle- from the perspective of the emergency hospital staff who receive and treat them rather than from the outside viewer.

Scanning a patient for identification

Imagine this: A man in his 50’s arrived in the emergency room, wheeled in by paramedics, shaven head, brown eyes, unconscious. To make matters worse, he had no materials on him that could have helped the staff with his identity for crosschecking with their patient matching system– no wallet, cellphone, papers, or anything at all. To top it all off, he did not have any distinguishing features such as a tattoo or scar. This incident was back in 2017- a car hit him in January, and he was rushed in with a fatal brain injury to Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center. He did not have any visitors, nor was he ever reported missing. Sadly, he passed away being a John Doe, no one ever knowing who he was.

This is just one example of how serious and pressurizing it is for the hospital staff to deal with such emergencies regarding patient matching systems, primarily when they consist of a John Doe. In these cases, they are required to become a form of detective in order to determine the identities of these unknown patients when they arrive at the hospitals. This is done for several reasons: firstly, finding the identity helps with the treatment- the staff can then determine the patient’s medical history and whether he/she has any complications or not. Also, it allows them to find and contact a next of kin or close one to make any critical decisions if it becomes necessary. The identity also helps the hospital to contact the insurance company or government health programs, whichever the patient is associated with, regarding payment of their services.

However, there is a catch- federal laws concerning privacy make it difficult for the hospital staff to determine the unknown patients’ identities. In the previously mentioned example as well as in many similar cases, the team along with the social workers frantically rummage through whatever a John Doe brings with him- bag, clothing, phones without passwords, receipts, or whatever piece of document or device which can help them identify the individual and proceed to their patient matching system. Their efforts don’t stop there- they also question the paramedics and dispatchers. Tattoos, piercings, and scars are duly noted, and when all else fails, dental records are checked against the individual. However, because the police can only access fingerprints, it is often left unchecked, mainly because the police only involve themselves only when a criminal element is present in the situation.

Hospitals Need a Better Patient Matching System to Identify “John Does”
Hospitals Need a Better Patient Matching System to Identify “John Does”

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These John Does are usually the ones hit by vehicles and had unfortunately left their IDs back at home, and can also be poor people with cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Other times, they are overdosed individuals. Unsurprisingly, socially isolated individuals like homeless people are the ones who are the most difficult to identify, and sadly, they are the ones who are the most common John Does in recent years.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was made to ensure the privacy of an individual’s medical data. However, in cases of these John Does, it can make patient matching increasingly difficult as the hospitals cannot release any information to those searching for missing family members regarding these patients. For instance, a patient with Alzheimer’s was admitted to a NY hospital with the name “Trauma XXX.” The police and his family members went in search for him several times at the very same hospital, but they were told nothing. Weeks later, a doctor while watching television saw that man in the news and identified him as the patient “Trauma XXX.” Afterward, when charged with why the hospital hid the patient, the staff said that they did not ask about “Trauma XXX” specifically.

Due to this incident, a lot of rules were set up and changed regarding information requests about missing persons. It consisted of following over twenty steps for hospitals, starting from notifying the reception, to taking DNA samples.

All of this could have been avoided if a fast, accurate, and reliable patient matching system was used. RightPatient is one such patient identification system that utilizes biometrics and AI. Through this, it uses iris scanning to quickly match the patients with their EHRs so that the whole patient experience can be enhanced. It also helps the physicians focus on more critical tasks such as the patients themselves instead of going through matching patients. Thus, not only is it beneficial for the patients, but it is also beneficial for the hospitals as well, creating a win-win situation for all and ensuring patient safety through the enhancement of the whole patient experience.

Patient experience

Patient experience and patient engagement: Is there any difference?

There are quite some differences between engagement and experience. However, in the healthcare industry, the terms patient engagement and patient experience are sometimes used interchangeably due to which people believe that they are the same thing, confusing. To clear it up- patient experience and patient engagement are not the same things.Patient experience

In the healthcare industry, hospitals are assigning more resources than ever to improve the patient experience. Likewise, both technology and employees are being utilized to find out how patient engagement can be improved. Patient engagement has been becoming increasingly important because the patients are playing an active role as they use more smartwatches, keep track of their data like steps, blood pressure, and others.

However, what are the actual differences in patient experience and patient engagement? Let us find out.

Patient experience

Patient experience is the summation of all the experiences an individual has during his/her interactions with the healthcare system. It starts right from the phone call until the checkups. In between, there are more parts of the patient experience, like the visit to the hospital, the quality of the care provided by the hospital, billing experience, and can be many more varying on the situation. To sum it up, all these small interactions make up the entire patient experience. A key feature of patient experience is that the responsible party is the healthcare system and not the patient. Thus, it entirely depends on the healthcare provider whether the experience will be good or otherwise.

Patient engagement

On the other hand, patient engagement, as per its definition, consists of the steps an individual must take to acquire the maximum benefits from the available healthcare services. See the difference? It is quite clear from the definition itself. It puts the patients in charge of their healthcare. Various services are made available to the patient from the provider’s end. However, it is up to the patient whether he/she wants to avail those or not- the patient needs to act or engage with those services. For instance, CircleCare is a part of those healthcare services- it is an app through which the patient can participate in various engagement activities effectively.

In short, patient experience is the responsibility of the healthcare provider, whereas patient engagement is in the hands of the patients, provided that the services are made available by the hospitals. However, it is beneficial for both the patients and the healthcare provider if the patient engagement is increased, as it causes the patients to become more responsible and make the whole healthcare process easier for themselves and the providers.

Patient experience and patient engagement: Is there any difference?

Patient Retention App

Retain patients, improve wellness, and keep your brand connected

One key patient engagement strategy for hospitals to use is patient retention apps. These apps help to keep the hospitals be in constant communication with the patients, making the recovery process more streamlined and help to retain them. CircleCare is such an app. It helps the patients keep records of their health data, track their steps, share updates, learn health tips, and share useful information within their circle. Once the hospital subscribes to CircleCare, the patient can download, register, and use right away- it is that easy! While engaging within the app, it helps the patients be proactive, live more healthily, and helps the hospitals by assisting them to retain the patients, creating a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Piece of medical record over other documents

The curious case of a mistaken patient identity

Mistaken patient identities in the healthcare industry are nothing new- a lot of people have faced it, and it occurs almost every day in the US. However, this time, it was not news of someone who suffered from it, but rather a couple who got saved from just being another mistaken patient identity. This mishap was properly detected and the victims were fortunately saved from a huge financial loss.

Piece of medical record over other documents

The actual story

A Florida-based couple would have been the victims of mistaken patient identity and almost lost a lot of money. Mrs. Barding detected the error when she identified that Cigna, her insurance company, was processing a whopping $2.2 million in medical bills.

How did she figure it out? With the help of Mr. Barding, the couple identified that the bills were actually associated with his identical twin, Vance Barding, who was burned in a work accident and sadly passed away six weeks later from complications.

Mrs. Barding told that Cigna billed them for her brother-in-law’s care and had deducted $3000 from her health reimbursement account. However, after notifying the insurance company, they verified the claim and stopped billing the couple, as well as returning the money to Mrs. Barding’s account. This was all due to the mistaken patient identity. 

Cigna also stated that there are always a large number of claims which are made in error by different healthcare providers, and they have thus discussed with the latter in order to be more vigilant about such erroneous bills.

The healthcare provider in question is Orlando Health and it was provided incorrect information, due to which this whole situation arose. However, as it was made aware, they worked with necessary parties in order to rectify the mistake. This was a fortunate case where the would-be victims were saved due to the vigilance of the wife. Unfortunately, not every victim has a Mrs. Barding beside them.

Some statistics regarding mistaken patient identity errors 

A survey conducted by Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare (PSQH) revealed that 54% of the respondents are unhappy with the current patient identification methods. Another research shows that 10% of the overall patients are misidentified during entry. This mostly happens due to the large healthcare systems, which have a lot of patients to cover, and thus they make mistakes due to human errors, miscommunication, and sometimes in order to save time. The PSQH survey also shows that 89% of the respondents believe that proper patient identification is a vital part and is of paramount importance to their organizations. On the other hand, only 4% believe that the current patient identification process is completely accurate.

The curious case of a mistaken patient identity
The curious case of a mistaken patient identity

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

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How to avoid patient identification errors? 

Patient identification using biometrics is the only way to eliminate this problem. It not only is error-free, but it is also instantaneous, speeding up the process for patient care, as well as safe.

RightPatient AI is used by a number of notable hospitals as well as thousands of outpatient sites, transforming the experience of the patients as well as the healthcare professionals. It not only eliminates the errors, but it also saves time in order to focus on patient care. It is also fully compatible with any EHR system as well as third-party apps, thus creating a seamless experience for the end user. It uses iris scanning to identify the patients and then pull the relevant data from their EHR. Take Terrebonne General Medical Center (TGMC) as an example. It is located in an area where a lot of people share common names, either first or last. Thus, it posed risks of incorrect record documentation, patient record mix-ups, and providing wrong prescriptions. RightPatient has helped TGMC in eliminating this issue entirely using Photo Biometrics along with iris scanning. It has an advantage over most other biometric modalities- iris scanning does not require any physical contact on the patient’s end, thus, no risks of infections or diseases via contact. Duplication and errors are all things of the past with RightPatient. 17 years of experience in AI and human recognition is proof of it.