With over 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States as of 22nd May 2020 and surrounding talks about reopening society, it remains a firm fact that without widespread contact tracing and safe vaccine administration, there is no getting back to the life we once knew as normal. Nevertheless, there is one major and longstanding hurdle to overcome for achieving either of both widespread contact tracing or safe vaccine administration goals, and that is correct patient identification.
The importance of correct patient identification
The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-profit, non-governmental organization along with several other organizations have been looking for ways to improve patient matching through correct patient identification. Most importantly, they have stressed the fact that biometric technology is the key, including in a recent HIMSS20 Digital Presentation.
The PEW has again stressed that Congress should act to strive for correct patient identification, thus, improving patient matching. They have sent a letter this week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel, R-Kentucky, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York. According to the letter, thorough contact tracing in the short-term and nationwide vaccination administration in the long-term relies on having accurate patient demographic data, but the current flaws with correct patient identification and matching of patient records hinder the nation’s ability to achieve either of those goals.
Drawbacks of patient identification errors
Ben Moscovitch, Project Director for Health Information Technology at the Pew Charitable Trusts says “Matching is a problem today”. He says, according to research, half of the patient records may not match when transferred from one healthcare facility to another, and it harms the patient.
Not having a correct patient identification technique in hospitals can cause discrepancies in data when hospitals try to match an individual’s record, and it may lead to the creation of another electronic health record (EHR) for the same patient, thus creating a duplicate medical record in the system. Duplicate medical records drive up the cost. Research has shown that duplicate medical records in a system costs hospitals $96 to fix for each record and it can add up to $1,000 to remove the data of two patients, whose records have been merged together.
Key factors that can hinder the immunization process
A variety of factors can affect correct patient identification. When common identifiers such as name, DOB, and address are used, a simple typo or variation in how these identifiers are recorded during registration can lead to poor match rates.
Another major problem with patient matching is the fact that many people have similar names, including the same date of birth. In a nation where nearly 48,000 people are named John Smith, correct patient identification is absolutely critical for an effective widespread vaccination program.
An effective large-scale nationwide vaccination program and immunization registry would depend on reliable and robust patient data, and it hinges on the ability of healthcare providers to locate the right patient record. Biometric technology has consistently proven effective in matching patients’ records through correct patient identification.
Why should you use biometric technology in a post-coronavirus society?
Other than the fact that contactless biometric technology helps with correct patient identification, it is also hygienic as it limits a person from touching surfaces and contact between people during the identification process. A leading biometric patient identification vendor- RightPatient, offers iris and facial recognition modality in hospitals for correct patient identification, where a person can be identified from a safe distance.
RightPatient uses biometric characteristics of a patient such as an iris pattern or facial photograph to lock their medical record during registration. Iris patterns are unique to each individual and when a patient comes in to verify their identity in a hospital, the platform will scan their iris pattern and pull up their accurate medical records. This technique significantly increases patient matching rates.
RightPatient also offers a remote patient authentication process. The patient will receive a notification shortly after scheduling an appointment, and all the patient needs to do is just take a selfie and a picture of their driver’s license and the platform will automatically validate their identity. While people are currently maintaining social distance by mostly staying home, this is a great way to identify an individual and control the spread of this contagious disease.
Needless to say, contactless biometric technology for correct patient identification is the key to an effective nationwide vaccination program because even if there are 48,000, John or Smiths, it is highly unlikely they will have the same iris pattern or driver’s license.