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biometrics can be used for readmission reduction program

2583 hospitals hit with penalties due to readmission reduction program

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

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

biometrics can be used for readmission reduction program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

patient identifier

Another industry expert in favor of an effective patient identifier

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

patient identifier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Making the Case for National Unique Patient ID

patient identifier in healthcare

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

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

 patient identifier in healthcare

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

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

What happened previously?

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

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

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

Some statistics

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

What should be the unique patient identifier in healthcare?

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

effective-patient-identifier

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

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

effective-patient-identifier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

doctor treating patient for better patient outcomes

Seven strategies ACOs use for better patient outcomes and lower costs

According to recent studies, it is expected that Medicare’s projected spending will be well over $1.5 trillion by the year 2028- that is more than double what the value was just two years ago! All Medicare asks from ACOs are better patient outcomes.

doctor treating patient for better patient outcomes

Many ACOs have already reduced costs and thus saved Medicare approximately $1 billion during 2013-2015. Not only did they reduce costs, but they also improved quality across the majority of the metrics required by Medicare. These exemplary ACOs depended on primary care visits, which they used to reduce ER visits and in turn, cut costs by around $700 per patient. 

Some of the strategies which ACOs can follow to improve their healthcare spending patterns and generate better patient outcomes are: 

Collaborate with the physicians they work with

ACOs highlighted the fact that one of the ways to enhance the quality of healthcare as well as reduce the costs was to work closely with the assigned physicians. They also stated that these physicians are usually ordering services like lab tests for the patients or referring to other specialists without keeping the costs in check, and may inadvertently end up incurring more costs than necessary. However, if the physicians and ACOs collaborated frequently, the former can make informed decisions regarding the costs which will be beneficial for both the patients as well as the ACOs by reducing costs while keeping quality in check. Other than that, the physicians have to be busy with administrative issues, which can be quite hectic for them, which causes them to focus more on these tedious tasks rather than focusing on the patients. ACOs can collaborate with the physicians regarding these issues, as well, to reduce the time spent on such matters and focus more on the patients instead.

Encourage the patients to take initiatives regarding their health

A common yet effective strategy used not only by ACOs but by any health system is to encourage their patients to take charge of their health and adopt a better, more active lifestyle. However, ACOs are reporting that this can be quite challenging, especially if there are multiple physicians which is common in ACOs. What ACOs can do is adopt the strategy used by conventional health systems- use patient engagement apps like CircleCare. It has all the necessary features required for active patient engagement. Patients can track not only their steps but also keep track of their blood pressure, blood glucose level, schedule medicine reminders, and so on. It helps patients to maintain even the most complex medication routines as well as encourages them to lead a healthier lifestyle. However, these are not the only features of such apps, as will be explored further down the line.

Seven strategies ACOs use for better patient outcomes and lower costs

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Emphasize on patients requiring extra care

Care coordinators are professionals who are entrusted to make sure that the patients requiring extra care receive it, especially when they are discharged along with their proper medication as well as necessary materials. Nearly all the ACOs utilize such personnel who even help schedule follow-ups. However, ACOs can also use CircleCare in this context for better care, since these apps help patients and these caregivers to stay connected and exchange health information easily, perhaps about minor complications and so on. 

Reduce ER visits and readmission rates

Most ACOs face the problems of ER (emergency room) visits which in turn generate hospital readmissions, many of which are preventable. However, it is notably more of a concern for ACOs since they are fined based on the readmission rates. One strategy ACOs can use is providing digital solutions to patients such as patient engagement apps like CircleCare. Since these apps push the patients to be physically active, these can create better patient outcomes- the more active the patient, the healthier they will be. Also, since these apps have two-way communication facilities, they can contact their physicians regarding any minor health issues and resolve them outside the ACO premises, thus, reducing ER visits.

Enhance patient identification and data sharing

Patient identification is one of the major problems of the US healthcare system, and it is a massive concern for ACOs as well- they need to share patient data among themselves, and the data needs to be as immaculate and consistent as possible. Thus, ACOs can overcome the issues with conventional EHRs by using biometric patient identification solutions like RightPatient. It uses iris scanning to accurately identify the patients and match them with their appropriate records within seconds. This will improve the match rates as well as enhance the patient experience along with data sharing, which are all must-have features for any ACO as these lead to better patient outcomes.

Make sure medication adherence among patients is present

According to statistics, two-thirds of the prescribed patients are non-adherent regarding their medications. This generates 50% of treatment failures, causing up to 125,000 preventable deaths per year in the US. These could have been prevented if the patients were adherent to their medications, and for that, CircleCare is the perfect solution. Its medicine reminder makes medication adherence as easy as it gets- the patients using the app can set the type, color, look, frequency, dosage, starting/ending date, and duration through an intuitive yet simple interface. Even the most complex regimens become manageable due to CircleCare, ensuring medication adherence and thus fewer ER visits for ACOs.

Ensure patient education is provided

Patient education is another problem which generates frequent ER visits as well as hospital readmissions. Most patients have minimal knowledge regarding their health- 50% of them experience difficulty in understanding as well as using health information and 40% of them do not remember most of the information in the first place. CircleCare provides meaningful and easy to understand information for patients, customized according to their health conditions so that they can receive the latest knowledge regarding their health and make informed decisions if required. Moreover, it also provides general health tips regarding food and physical activities, which can help patients follow those tips for a better lifestyle and better patient outcomes.

patient matching challenges

Unique identifiers will lead to a reduction of patient matching challenges

If you are a follower of this blog, then you will know how huge a problem patient matching challenges actually are for the whole healthcare industry. As the health systems are brainstorming workarounds to make sure patient matching is increased, they should also keep in mind some other factors. According to a report from Pew Charitable Trusts, if the industry wants to ensure that patient matching errors are eradicated or at least substantially reduced, they should focus on developing robust data standards and patient engagement alongside the search for an effective patient identification system.

patient matching challenges

But why should it matter? According to the researchers, they have found positive correlations between patient matching errors and adverse effects. To put it simply, if a health system cannot match a patient correctly to his/her existing medical record, then problems like rising costs, medication errors, and adverse patient experiences will take place. Thus, patient matching is not an issue which can be underestimated. Concerns such as data integrity failures, lack of clean records, and patient mix-ups can all lead to patient identification errors and disrupt the patient experience as well as threaten patient safety. For example, if patient A has heart disease and patient B has kidney complications, and their records somehow got mixed up, then both of them will receive improper care, which could be fatal. Such mix-ups usually occur because of common names, demographics, addresses, as well as the format of the data stored within the EHRs of the patients. Formatting refers to how a health system saves the data and how many data fields it uses. For example, one health system may keep email addresses, whereas another one may not.

Another example can be a health system saving the full name of a patient in a single data field, whereas another may use three fields to save first, middle, and last names of the patients. Due to such errors, interoperability is generated as well. Other issues which cause patient matching errors can be incomplete or blank data. 

The research said that if common elements used by all the health systems were to be standardized, that is, the data is entered using a standard guideline rather than each health system doing so independently, these patient matching errors would decrease by a considerable amount. However, this may not reduce patient mix-ups between individuals with common characteristics like names and addresses, as these are still bound to happen. 

Another suggestion the research made was that active patient participation is needed to ensure that they are correctly identified and matched with their appropriate record. However, patients can sometimes absentmindedly or inadvertently choose a wrong record, while in other cases, the hospital staff may do it on their behalf and create a whole new record for the patient, known as a duplicate ID. 

Unique identifiers will lead to a reduction of patient matching challenges
Unique identifiers will lead to a reduction of patient matching challenges

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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. 

patient identification errors

Patient identification errors are the most common EHR generated issues

According to a recent survey, patient identification errors are the most common problems caused by EHRs; thus, jeopardizing patient safety and causing a rise in patient harm. This phenomenon is not unexpected, as there have been numerous cases, studies, and research stating the exact thing – patient identification errors cost organizations greatly.

patient identification errors

Researchers who conducted this study did so with the claims submitted to official databases regarding EHR systems, and with this data, they detected the most frequent errors which cause patient harm and are directly related to EHRs.

According to the researchers, the information they found while carrying out the study was meaningful as it provided enough evidence to the fact that the usage of EHR systems has negative consequences. Also, the complaints they found showed that in extreme cases, EHRs could be correlated to severe consequences for patients, sometimes even resulting in deaths.

According to the study, 31% of claims consisted of medication errors, and the same number was found for claims regarding treatment complications. This can be traced back to patient identification errors- they are provided with wrong treatment plans or wrong medications thanks to either duplicate records or mix-ups. Another finding was that the number of errors occurring in outpatient facilities was higher than those occurring in inpatient services. 

Another interesting fact is that in the study, these errors occurred due to human mistakes more than the errors caused by the system – 63% were user errors, while the rest were system related issues. Problems caused by the systems refer to several things like the general interface of the EHR, which can be clunky and unintuitive. For instance, there were numerous reports of physicians not being able to access the information on time which caused delays in treatment procedures. Human errors can range from creating duplicate records, as the hospital staff could not find the accurate medical record and created a new, redundant one, to misidentifying a patient and causing record mix-ups. In any case, regardless of the errors being caused by humans or the system itself, patient misidentifications are extremely dangerous and pose a threat to all individuals who are on the receiving end of healthcare services. This statement is supported by another fact – 80% of these EHR related errors caused severe patient safety issues. However, the researchers believed that the inpatient cases were more likely to be fatal when compared to the outpatient ones, citing that outpatient patients arrive with minor ailments in the first place, thus, are less likely to be harmed.

Patient identification errors are the most common EHR generated issues
Patient identification errors are the most common EHR generated issues

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In the concluding part of the study, the researchers said that patient safety could be severely jeopardized at any healthcare setting and circumstance, especially if the patients are misidentified – only adding more complexities to deal with. Lack of interoperability, design issues, unintuitive systems, and lack of alarms over duplicate records only contribute to more errors.

So, how are health systems dealing with these patient misidentification issues generated by EHRs? Most of them are struggling with it. EHRs were introduced in the ‘90s and were made with the vision to go paperless and completely digital, improving the patient experience. While EHRs did accomplish some of those goals, it gave birth to duplicate records, mix-ups, and with no data standardization or interoperability, there seems to be no escape from this. Thanks to studies like these, this overlooked issue has grabbed the attention of most of the leading health systems of the US, and many are now clamoring for a solution or a unified patient identification system. While the latter is still far away from happening, the former is already available. Over one hundred health systems are using RightPatient – a biometric patient identification solution. It focuses on iris scanning to make sure that identification is hygienic (non-contact), quick, accurate, and easy to use; patients only need to look at the camera, and they are identified. The users are reporting promising results, like increased patient safety, enhanced patient experience, and reduced losses which previously occurred due to misidentifications and denied claims, creating a favorable environment and a win-win situation for all.

patient-experience-in-healthcare

Patient experience in healthcare is vital for both hospitals and patients

Patients are customers of the healthcare industry, and like conventional customers, they anticipate an improved patient experience- shorter wait times, accurate identifications, and more focus of physicians. However, emphasizing on patient experience is not only beneficial for the patients but also the health systems, as well. Let’s see how exactly this is true.

patient-experience-in-healthcare

There’s a common saying in the healthcare industry- healthcare is continuously evolving, and those serving the industry need to be on top of the situation by adapting to the situation. This means that if health systems do not adapt to technologies improving the patient experience, they will lag behind. Just like customers, patients can shift to other health systems offering the best patient experience possible.

Because of this, several experienced personnel in the healthcare industry agree on two things which are common nowadays, regardless of these technological advancements – patients are the core of their care strategies and health systems are focusing on positive patient outcomes and patient experience in healthcare.

The changing landscape 

As previously mentioned, the healthcare industry works almost like any other industry. Patients now have access to a massive amount of information with which they can make informed decisions regarding themselves or their close loved ones. Thus, patients have evolved according to the transformation of the healthcare industry. Thanks to digitization, they have become more knowledgeable, more informed, and are better prepared for decision-making compared to before. Patients interact with other sectors as well, daily, and from those interactions arise the expectations of superior customer (patient) experience from the healthcare industry.

How is the healthcare industry responding?

As the demands of the patients keep changing, many healthcare providers are tailoring their services accordingly to keep up with the formers’ expectations. Health systems are doing so by adopting the latest technologies available to meet the demands of the patients; for instance, using patient engagement apps to keep the patients connected and ensuring active participation from the patients’ ends and establishing loyalty among the patients in the process. This also generates in lower patient readmissions, as non-critical issues can be solved efficiently via the apps through communication between the doctors and patients, thus, better patient outcomes.

Patient experience in healthcare is vital for both hospitals and patients
Patient experience in healthcare is vital for both hospitals and patients

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However, patient experience goes both ways. There have been multiple studies which refer to the positive correlation between patient experience and physician experience. The better the patient experience is, the better the physicians are motivated, as well. Also, physicians have had burnouts due to inefficiencies like clunky EHRs. The physicians reported that they would rather focus on their patients than look at the screen all day long and click the mouse a thousand times, which is the case every day for any given physician. Thus, removing such tedious tasks and improving patient experience can result in an overall better experience for all of those involved.

The multibillion-dollar question

There is another aspect of the patient experience which has been overlooked by many – patient misidentification. This is a massive problem of the healthcare industry, and the losses caused by it are unprecedented. Thus, it is aptly called a multibillion-dollar issue. However, it not only causes financial losses but also results in various degrees of problems for the patients, ranging from wrong treatment plans to even untimely deaths. Also, as previously mentioned, this is the aspect of healthcare which causes burnouts in the physicians – interacting with EHRs to identify patients, and sometimes it takes a long time to do so correctly.

Every day, we read an article about patient matching errors, how it impacts the patients, the health systems, and how big of a problem it is. Thanks to numerous studies, statistics, and facts, it is not sidelined anymore, as health systems are now clamoring for solutions to it. But is there an effective solution? There is, and it is called RightPatient. RightPatient is a biometric patient identification system which focuses on iris scanning to provide a safe, secure, and hygienic way to accurately identify the patients, as there is no necessity for physical contact and all the patient needs to do is look at the camera. Once a patient is registered in RightPatient, there are no chances for any duplicate records, as the data is linked to the EHR of the patient. RightPatient also seamlessly integrates with any significant EHR system and is effectively used by over a hundred hospitals to ensure patient safety, enhance the patient experience (which in turn improves the experience of all involved with patient identification), and cut losses caused by misidentifications.

biometrics-helping-with-patient-identification

Another one added to the endless list of patient misidentifications stories

Another day, another one added to the endless patient misidentifications stories– makes the need for an effective patient identification solution like RightPatient even more urgent. 

biometrics-helping-with-patient-identification

However, medical record mix-ups occurred even before EHRs were implemented. Years ago, a woman called Liz Tidyman’s parents decided to spend more time with their daughter and grandchildren, and thus moved close to their home. While they did so, they carried everything important with them, especially the hard copies of their medical records (EHRs did not exist back then).

Exactly two days after the parents moved in with Liz, the father unfortunately fell. Since this has never happened before, the family was concerned, and they took him to a hospital for a checkup. While sitting in the waiting room, Liz took out her father’s medical record right on time, or else there would have been some grave consequences in store for the family. As Liz went through her father’s health record, she saw some abnormalities- there were numerous pages regarding the medical history of an entirely different person. The only thing Liz could associate with her father was the name of the other patient, everything else regarding the medical history was unrecognizable by Liz- the other patient had much more complex problems than her father did. At that instant, she took out those irrelevant pages about the mistaken patient and decided that she will always double-check such sensitive records, medical or otherwise, in the foreseeable future.

This was just one story, and that too before the introduction of EHRs and the mess they created. There are many such stories and incidents before and after EHRS which have created the billion-dollar problem- patient misidentifications. These have also led to numerous patient misidentifications stories, due to which everyone is taking it seriously now.  

Another one added to the endless list of patient misidentifications stories
Another one added to the endless list of patient misidentifications stories

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No patient, old or young, is safe from patient matching errors, but since the older ones are less comfortable with technology, they need to be more careful regarding their medical records. According to a healthcare official, one out of ten patients who have seen their records say that there are inconsistencies and demand corrections. This is not really surprising, given the number of problems we read about everyday regarding patient identification. For instance, some patients may see that inaccurate medical test results, treatment plans, or diagnoses have been attached to their medical records, raising doubts regarding what else is mixed up with other patients. However, this actually happened with Liz’s father as well.

When asked about kidney cancer, Liz’s father denied he had it. Afterward, Liz viewed the materials and realized that the mix-up was due to the name, and it was listed kidney cancer instead of skin cancer, the latter which her father actually had. Likewise, omissions, patient mix-ups, and duplicate records create all kinds of ruckus and devastate families, end the lives of individuals and cause losses in millions of dollars. This has been the scenario for years, and EHRs did not fix them, they only amplified the problems further.

Health systems have finally begun to address how serious of an issue patient misidentifications can be, thanks to the endless pile of patient misidentifications stories. While some hospitals are struggling with using only EHRs for patient identification, others are clamoring for an effective solution to end these patient matching errors. However, other advanced and forward-thinking healthcare providers opted for RightPatient– a biometric patient identification system. It uses the iris scanning modality to identify the patients. Once the hospitals enroll the patients with RightPatient, they can be recognized and matched with their records easily and conveniently, all it needs is a look at the camera- it’s that easy! Patient acceptance to RightPatient has been high as well since they perceive it as safe and hygienic- no physical contact required; thus, no risks of contracting any diseases. RightPatients helps in saving the lives of patients and reducing denied claims and ultimately saving money along the way. 

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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.

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

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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.