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3 Patient Safety Measures Hospitals Must Take in a Post-Pandemic World

COVID-19 has changed reality for us – it has changed the way we lead our lives. Sanitizers, masks, and social distancing have become quite integral parts of our daily lives now. Wherever we go, social distancing practices are encouraged for a safer environment. However, it has shaken the healthcare systems of the world to their core, especially that of the U.S. With the highest number of cases in the world (as of now), hospitals are slowly opening their doors for regular patients. Keeping that in mind, hospitals must take patient safety measures while they are opening to ensure that patients receive care in a safe and hygienic environment. Let’s take a look at some common steps hospitals can take to prevent patient safety issues.

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Some insightful statistics

According to a survey by Sage Growth Partners, 24% of the respondents (healthcare professionals) believe that issues such as disparate EHRs and lack of actionable data at the point of care lead to patient safety issues.

Improving patient safety is also among the top three priorities of the respondents, besides delivering high-quality care and increasing efficiency and reducing costs – all of which can be done by ensuring accurate patient identification (more on that later). 

Let’s explore what kind of patient safety measures will help hospitals enhance patient care.

Patient safety measures that can help enhance patient care

Planning everything well in advance

While many might think that everything is slowly returning to normal, it’s quite the opposite. Working from home is still being utilized by most organizations, social distancing is still being practiced, and wearing masks and sanitizing regularly are still highly encouraged.

Since hospitals are opening slowly, they should plan every step carefully along with contingencies while keeping worst-case scenarios in mind. Hospitals need to plan the opening days and rather than opening the whole facility at once, they should open in phases. This will help reduce the risk of any mass outbreaks of COVID-19 – managing a mass outbreak at a single location will be much easier than managing outbreaks at all the facilities.

Also, hospitals should decide at what capacity will they operate and the duration for that testing phase. If all goes well, they can slowly increase the capacity of patients they will be serving. 

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Finally, the inventory required for all of the above needs to be planned to ensure that the necessary materials are available at all times. For instance, PPE has become quite critical, and these should be ordered well in advance before the stock runs out within the facilities. Thus, instead of reordering the materials when they’re at 30%, they should be reordered at, say, 45% – these are essential materials, after all.

Enforce safety measures for everyone

It goes without saying that every individual must practice a minimum level of social distancing to help themselves and others stay safe from the novel coronavirus. Sadly, not everyone follows that. Thus, the hospitals must enforce that everyone within the facility must follow the social distancing rules to a T. Not only is this one of the most common patient safety measures, but it also enhances safety for the physicians, nurses, and every other healthcare staff. 

Keep brightly colored posters in places where they will catch everyone’s attention. Place stickers on the floor with six feet between them to show where patients or caregivers must stand, especially in busy places like registration desks. Make sure that everyone is wearing masks and that sanitizers are available everywhere. Keeping the facilities hygienic is crucial to enhance patient safety.

Ensure accurate patient data

One of the most crucial factors that make or break patient safety is patient data, as the former is heavily reliant on the accuracy of patient data. Imagine this, if the patient is treated based on inaccurate patient data, they will face delayed or incorrect medications, leading to poor healthcare outcomes. One of the most common ways patient data gets corrupted is via duplicate records. 

If a patient has multiple records, there are high chances that the registrar will select the one with inconsistent or fragmented data, leading to adverse outcomes. Thus, ensuring that patient data integrity is maintained at all times is crucial for improving patient safety. Fortunately, RightPatient does all that – and more.

RightPatient is the leading patient identification platform used by healthcare providers like Terrebonne General Medical Center, Grady Health, and Catholic Health of Long Island. With a robust photo-based engine, it ensures that the patients are identified accurately at all times across the care continuum, helping patient data integrity by avoiding duplicate medical records. Moreover, it ensures that the patients are who they say they are and not impostors, preventing medical identity theft in real-time.

Finally, a platform like RightPatient is critical in a post-pandemic world because it is entirely touchless. Thus, it helps caregivers and patients operate in a hygienic environment by preventing infection control issues.

Use RightPatient now and enhance patient safety at your facilities, prevent medical identity theft, and prevent duplicate medical records – enhancing patient data integrity along the way.

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CMS Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule Requires a Robust Patient Identification Software

This has been quite a year for the U.S. healthcare system – nobody could’ve predicted all the series of events. While the novel coronavirus is still raging on, telehealth is experiencing unprecedented growth. On the other hand, hospitals are facing immense financial strain due to the pandemic’s consequences such as the cancellation of elective procedures and lower inpatient visits. However, despite all the recent developments healthcare providers need to work on something else as well – supporting e-notifications. CMS has made some additional changes to the Medicare Conditions of Participation (CoPs), and while providers will be busy brainstorming about how to best approach the requirements, many will overlook one critical factor that will either make or break their e-notifications – patient identification. Let’s take a look at what the rule specifically says about e-notifications, who is eligible, how it helps caregivers, and how a robust patient identification software like RightPatient is a must for ensuring proper e-notifications.

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The Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule – in a Nutshell

While the rule itself is quite vast and detailed, we’ll cover the e-notifications part briefly. The basic meaning of the rule is clear from its name. For years, the U.S. healthcare system has been suffering from the lack of proper interoperability for a number of issues – patient misidentification being a major reason. However, with the “companion final rule”, as per CMS, things are about to change for the better, as it will introduce a certain level of interoperability that will ultimately boost coordinated healthcare efforts.

The “companion final rule” states that healthcare providers such as critical access providers, acute care, or psychiatric hospitals must send out real-time e-notifications during ADT (admission, discharge, or transfer) events to a patient’s caregivers such as established primary care practitioners, post-acute providers & suppliers,  primary care practice groups & entities, as well as any other practitioners, groups, or entities primarily responsible for the patient’s care. The information sent must contain the patient’s name, the treating practitioner’s name, and the sending institution’s name, at the very least. Finally, these are applicable during inpatient ADT events and ED admissions or discharges.

Any caregiver that uses digital medical records such as EHRs or EMRs must support e-notifications by May 1, 2021, to ensure CMS compliance.

With that out of the way, let’s look at how the rule requires accurate patient identification and how a robust patient identification software is critical for its success.

Why patient identification will make or break your CMS compliance

Healthcare providers are already busy working on e-notifications support, and while there are a lot of great solutions out there, providers shouldn’t forget the foundation upon which e-notifications depend on – proper patient identification.

The Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule requires hospitals to identify their patients accurately across the care continuum, especially if they want to send out e-notifications to the proper caregivers. Sadly, patient identification has always been problematic – it is an overlooked but significant concern for the U.S. healthcare system. One might ask how are patient identification and e-notifications related – let’s learn more.

Imagine this – a hospital already has patient misidentification cases because they don’t use an effective patient identification software. If a patient comes in and is misidentified, not only will the treatment be affected, but the hospital will be sending out false alerts to the wrong caregivers. This will wreak havoc for all the caregivers involved with the patient. 

If such cases become common, then the patients, as well as the care coordination teams, will start questioning the credibility of the caregiver sending out false alerts. As a result, the hospital will lose goodwill and risk its CMS reimbursements. After COVID-19, not a single hospital can afford to make such mistakes – the pandemic has already caused the worst financial strain on hospitals and health systems in recent times. Thus, patient identification is a crucial component for the e-notifications to work. If caregivers don’t have a robust patient identity matching system in place, they need to upgrade it before the e-notifications support deadline.

RightPatient is the most robust patient identification software

RightPatient has been accurately identifying patients for years. With its touchless patient identification platform, RightPatient ensures that patients are identified accurately and safely right from the start.

After a patient schedules an appointment, they are sent an SMS or email and are required to provide a selfie and a photo of their driver’s license. The platform automatically matches the photos and remotely ensures patient identification. If it’s a new patient, the platform will automatically assign new biometric credentials for them. 

During hospital visits, patients only need to look at the camera – RightPatient matches the saved photo with the photo taken by the camera – ensuring accurate patient identification. Best of all, it’s an entirely touchless process, something that is mandatory in a post-pandemic world.

RightPatient is the leading patient identification software in the healthcare industry and is used by prominent caregivers such as Terrebonne General Medical Center, Community Medical Centers, and Catholic Health Services of Long Island. Be a responsible healthcare provider and upgrade your patient identification system now to prevent misidentification cases, medical identity theft, and ensure compliance with the Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule.

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Patient Safety and Quality Healthcare Require Patient Identification During the Pandemic

Another day, another new initiative by healthcare leaders regarding patient identification. One might wonder that given the pandemic and its ongoing effects on healthcare, why is that a top priority right now? Well, that’s what the healthcare experts have been demanding as inaccurate patient data negatively impacts patient outcomes during this crisis. The U.S. healthcare system has been suffering due to the absence of a patient identifier for decades now – the ban is still in effect on a UPI. Let’s look at what industry experts are saying and how positive patient identification can ensure patient safety and quality healthcare.

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The importance of patient identification according to experts

This isn’t the first time leaders have talked about the need for accurate patient identification and it won’t be the last time. Healthcare providers have been struggling with patient identification for decades now, leading to compromised patient safety, inaccurate patient data, and unwanted healthcare outcomes. Add the pandemic to the equation, and identifying patients accurately becomes more important than ever as accurate data sharing is a topmost priority.

Recently, a session organized by the ONC (Office of the National Coordinator) for Health IT brought up the topic. According to Tom Leary, HIMSS VP of Government Relations, incorrect patient data leads to adverse impacts on public health response initiatives. He further elaborated on that – patient identification errors during the ongoing crisis led to several issues like improper data sharing, delays in sharing test results, and inaccuracies within longitudinal patient records. According to Mr. Leary, some nurses even tried to Google patients to identify them and contact them regarding their test results!

Preparing for COVID-19 vaccines, whenever they’re created, will require accurate patient identification during large-scale immunizations to identify the infected ones, the ones who got the shots, and to identify the outcomes of the cases, stated Mr. Leary. Not having any proper patient identity verification system in place is just worsening the health outcomes and adding fuel to the ongoing fires during the pandemic. Thus, to ensure patient safety and quality healthcare, proper patient identification is an absolute must.

Patient safety and quality healthcare depend on identifying patients

As previously mentioned, many might think that with the pandemic still impacting healthcare significantly, patient misidentification is the last thing we need to worry about. However, Mr. Leary, as well as other healthcare industry experts, thinks otherwise. During the ONC session, they have already demonstrated how patient misidentification is affecting healthcare outcomes. But even before the pandemic, patient identification errors were notorious for adversely impacting patient safety and quality healthcare.

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Let’s go back to the time before the pandemic struck the U.S. Even then, the healthcare system had a plethora of issues, one of which was duplicate medical records and overlays. Imagine – a patient came to the hospital and they were assigned a duplicate record, based on which the whole treatment will be provided – so many things could go wrong!

An incomplete or inaccurate EHR leads to repeated lab tests, improper treatment, and even deaths due to a single misidentification. As a result, patient safety is severely impacted as well as healthcare outcomes. Patient misidentification cases are associated with unwanted incidents that can haunt caregivers – loss of goodwill and litigation costs are just some of the consequences.

Even before the pandemic, patient misidentification was a significant issue within the healthcare system. However, the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates how patient identification errors impact patient outcomes during a time when accurate patient information is of the essence. 

Experts are urging for the UPI once again

It’s been around two decades since the ban was imposed on a state-funded UPI (unique patient identifier), but industry experts are once again rallying to remove the ban this year. Even if the UPI is finally mandated, responsible healthcare providers will combine it with an effective patient identifier. Such a patient identification policy will encompass several benefits such as enhanced interoperability, reliable patient matching, and improved healthcare outcomes. So, out of all the different patient identification solutions out there, which one is the best match?

Patient safety and quality healthcare require RightPatient

RightPatient has been ensuring accurate patient identification for years now, but why is it the best solution? Well, it can be seamlessly integrated with EHRs to become part of the workflow, making it perfect to be used alongside the UPI, should the latter get approval. Moreover, RightPatient eliminates the biggest headache of providers currently – infection control issues, as it is a touchless solution. With its photo-based search engine for identifying patients during appointment scheduling and beyond, RightPatient is the most feasible choice for positive patient identification post-COVID-19.

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Lack of Proper Patient ID Leads to “Professional Patients”

Patient ID issues have always been prevalent in the U.S. healthcare system – we help solve these issues for healthcare providers. Today, however, we won’t talk about patient identification issues that exist in hospitals and healthcare systems – we will focus on the fact that the problem extends beyond the average provider. Unfortunately, many patients take advantage of the lack of a proper patient identity verification system and go repeatedly to their providers’ facilities and take advantage of healthcare services. Did you know that this happens within clinical trials as well? Let’s learn more.

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The importance of clinical trials

Clinical trials have a significant impact on conventional healthcare. They lead to breakthroughs that boost healthcare outcomes, reduce recovery times, and can even provide medicine to treat complex and previously untreatable diseases. When considering this topic, COVID-19 would likely pop up in most people’s minds. That’s what the whole world is fighting against currently, and the proposed vaccines developed by leading professionals are going through several clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of the vaccines and whether they have any undesirable side effects.

Thus, the importance of clinical trials is paramount for everyone involved. Likewise, the individuals who volunteer, known as clinical research patients, are essential as well. Let’s see what their motivations are to participate in these activities and what factors are at play that might put the entire trial at risk.

The lack of patient ID systems hurts clinical trials

Patients who participate in clinical trials are well compensated for volunteering. Many do it for altruistic reasons, and while compensation is based on the risks involved, the research is also vetted by an institutional review board. This is done to determine whether anybody enlisted solely for monetary benefits – many patients even enlist in multiple trials or sites. But why do they do so? How do they affect the integrity of the trials? How can an effective patient ID platform prevent this issue?

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Professional patients

There are some types of clinical trials where the financial benefits are quite lucrative for individuals who join more than one trial or participate at multiple sites simultaneously. Naturally, many do join these trials and expose themselves to either multiple doses of the same drug or single doses of multiple drugs undergoing testing. These types of patients cannot afford the money to pay for healthcare and thus sign up for multiple trials – they participate to gain access to both the treatment and the compensation. This is just one type of “professional patient” – let’s look at others.

The other type of professional patients falsify information regarding their medical condition – they don’t have the required condition but want to be a part of the trial. They can falsify information regarding the results and effects of the trial to show that they are participating – only to receive the compensation. As you can imagine, their participation in clinical trials may be extremely dangerous.

Another type of professional patient is individuals who actually have the required medical condition but they fake the results – they don’t want to be treated for the condition. These are quite common in trials involving research into treatment for addiction.

The consequences of professional patients

Getting exposed to multiple drugs that are still undergoing testing can lead to adverse effects for the patients. Other than patient safety, the reliability of the trials will be reduced due to integrity failure. Overall, the trials will experience significant losses due to the actions of a few. 

COVID-19 has already claimed over 965,000 lives while experts around the world are racing against time to come up with a cure so that we can finally go back to leading normal lives. If these professional patients participate in the clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine, the affected trials will be rendered useless due to the unreliable data these patients will provide. Even when a vaccine is developed it will lose credibility due to professional patients, delaying the most significant breakthrough we need. Is there any way to stop these harmful practices and ensure data integrity of clinical trials?

An accurate patient ID platform is the key

Professional patients are getting smarter about how to enter clinical trials now that information is available on social media. However, if there was an effective patient identification platform in place, it would be enough to prevent professional patients’ participation right from the start. That’s where we can help.

RightPatient is the leading touchless patient identification platform used by healthcare providers. They are using it to protect millions of patient records and prevent duplicates in their EHR systems by ensuring that patients are identified correctly across the care continuum.  

Since RightPatient has both the experience and expertise, it can easily prevent professional patients from fraudulent participation. This leads not only to enhanced safety of the participants within the trials but also makes the data immaculate and reliable – speeding up the trials and reducing losses along the way.

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Patient Identification Policy Impacts Data Integrity and Patient Safety Issues

Let’s face it – patient identification errors are nothing new and it is a much-discussed topic among healthcare leaders. For instance, just a month ago, a new coalition was formed to urge Congress to develop a UPI (unique patient identifier) to be used nationwide. Sadly, such formations are quite common – groups, competitions, and alliances have formed for years for the same reason. The result is that no UPI exists yet and patient identification errors are still wreaking havoc. However, many healthcare providers are reaping the benefits of accurate patient identification – it boils down to the patient identification policy used by the caregiver. Let’s take a closer look at how patient identification errors can cause a multitude of problems, why accurate patient identification is so crucial, and how platforms like RightPatient can help ensure just that.

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Patient misidentification

It is quite self-explanatory. Patient identification errors occur whenever a healthcare facility fails to accurately match the patient with their appropriate medical record present within the EHR system.

It happens for a number of reasons. As already mentioned, it is nothing new and has been the result of years of human errors and improper patient data maintenance like duplicate medical records, overlays, and missing, incorrect, and/or incomplete information, leading to low patient match rates.

To put it into perspective, AHIMA stated that health systems can house up to 20% duplicate records within their EHR systems. The financial impact? It can go as high as $40 million for any given healthcare facility. 

Effects of patient misidentification

Low patient match rates is just the tip of the iceberg! Patient misidentification leads to several problems. Let’s look at the more prominent effects of patient misidentification.

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Whenever you incorrectly identify a patient, it means that one patient’s data will get written into someone else’s medical record – creating patient data integrity issues. This leads to a lot of problems – incorrect medications, repeated lab tests, incorrect medical procedures, inaccurate patient history – the list just goes on. Both the patients will receive inaccurate care by the caregiver as a direct consequence of patient misidentification, hampering patient outcomes.

Naturally, patient misidentification leads to patient safety issues – these are bound to happen if your treatment is based on the wrong medical record. Consequences can be delays in treatment, worse patient outcomes, irreparable damages, and sometimes, patient misidentification can even result in deaths. According to a report by John Hopkins University, medical errors can cause up to 250,000 avoidable deaths per year, many of which happen due to patient identification errors. 

Thus, the million-dollar question is how can healthcare providers ensure accurate patient identification across their facilities?

It depends on a provider’s patient identification system

The accuracy of patient identification is as good as the patient identification policy used by the hospital in question, and there are many options hospitals can choose from. Responsible leaders, in any case, must choose the patient identification system that ensures accurate patient identification, provides a seamless experience, and provides a safe and hygienic environment for all involved.

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There are a plethora of options available that hospitals can use as their primary patient identification policy. Sadly, many are still choosing the most obsolete one – inundating patients with questions. Whenever a patient arrives, officials ask them questions to find the correct medical record. This policy is slow, outdated, and extremely insecure – anyone can pass themselves off as the patient. In fact, this leads to medical identity theft – fraudsters buy stolen medical records from the black market and have all the information to pose successfully as the victim.

One other policy is to use patient ID wristbands. While this is a tad more secure than asking questions, it can still be taken off a patient and used for fraudulent purposes. Moreover, it is a contact-based solution, and that’s not something hospitals would want after the COVID-19 crisis – everyone is extremely aware of infection control issues now.

The most secure solution is using an identification policy where the identifier cannot be transferred or stolen – biometric modalities come to mind. There is a caveat though – patients would be quite reluctant to accept touch-based solutions such as fingerprint or palm-vein scanning.

Implement a touchless patient identification policy

The best option has been left for last – touchless patient identification platforms. RightPatient is the leading photo-based biometric patient identification system used by progressive healthcare providers.

Locking the medical records of patients with their photos upon registration, returning patients only need to look at the camera and the platform matches the photo with the one saved alongside their medical record, ensuring accurate patient identity verification.

There are many patient identification platforms available – be the responsible leader by choosing the one that shares the common goal of improving patient safety and quality of care at your facility.

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Identifying Patients Accurately is Critical for Ensuring CMS Compliance

The US healthcare system has been going through a very challenging phase due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, it looks like healthcare providers are going to have their hands full – they have another rule to comply with and must plan accordingly to ensure compliance by May 1, 2021. The fact that there have been additional changes to the Medicare Conditions of Participation (CoPs) is already well known among healthcare leaders. However, while many providers are already thinking about how they can ensure compliance, they might leave out one significant factor that can make or break the entire effort – are they identifying patients accurately? Why is this important? How does patient identification fit in with the new changes? How can providers ensure accurate patient identification? Let’s explore in detail.

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CMS Interoperability & Patient Access Final Rule

While the entire healthcare system has been suffering from the lack of interoperability, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have made some changes to the CoPs to ensure that there is some degree of interoperability, believing that it will have positive effects on care coordination as well.

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The “companion final rule”, as per CMS, mandates that healthcare providers like acute care, psychiatric, and critical access hospitals send out e-notifications during every patient admission, discharge, or transfer (ADT) to the designated recipients (read: providers and other entities primarily responsible for patient’s care). This is applicable for both inpatient admissions and patients registered in the emergency departments (EDs).

Moreover, the providers obligated to follow the ADT requirements must make enough effort to ensure that they have sent out the notifications to the applicable parties (suppliers, entities, practitioners, etc.) in real-time.

Any given healthcare provider that uses digital medical records like EMRs or EHRs needs to ensure compliance with the updated CoPs for e-notifications. COVID-19 has extended the deadline – healthcare providers now have until May 1, 2021 to ensure compliance with the recent changes. 

Why are the CoPs important?

What is the biggest reason to ensure CMS compliance? Financial factors like CMS reimbursements and avoiding non-compliance penalties are more than ample motivators. Healthcare providers need to be compliant in order to safeguard their CMS provider agreement – it determines whether the providers are able to receive reimbursements or not, which can be quite significant in some cases. If providers do not ensure compliance, not only will their agreements be in jeopardy, restricting them from receiving reimbursements, but they might also face penalties. Given the current healthcare crisis that has crippled almost every caregiver, more financial woes are something any provider would want to avoid. 

What the healthcare providers are doing

Since the deadline has been extended to May 1, 2021, leading figures of healthcare providers are brainstorming about how to comply with the change – should they build an in-house e-notification system themselves, or should they buy from experienced vendors? Whatever option providers go with, they are not addressing the elephant in the room – are they identifying patients accurately?

How identifying patients accurately is related to e-notifications

Think of it this way – patient identification in hospitals is already inaccurate. In fact, many healthcare providers face patient identification errors due to duplicate medical records, medical record overlays, and patient mix-ups, among other problems. These lead to issues like compromised patient safety, unwanted patient outcomes, avoidable medical errors, and even deaths.

So, it has already been established that if a hospital does not have an accurate patient identity management system, then it causes a lot of problems for the facility. Can you imagine what will happen if the hospital goes for an e-notification platform without identifying patients correctly first?

Issues like common names and characteristics shared by patients are already quite prevalent and cause patient mix-ups. If such a case occurs while sending out e-notifications, then the wrong patient’s data will be provided to the subsequent caregiver. Thus, patient mix-ups and incorrect patient identification cases during ADT notifications will wreak havoc – delays in treatments, medical errors, and lawsuits are just some of the consequences of such scenarios. It will be a nightmare for any given provider. Hospitals and health systems that are not identifying patients accurately at their facilities need to eliminate these errors to ensure CMS compliance and avoid any unwanted consequences. They need to ensure patient data integrity by ensuring positive patient identification every time a patient comes in. That’s where we can help.

Identifying patients accurately with RightPatient

CMS-compliance-requires-proper-patient-identification-for-e-notificationsRightPatient is the healthcare industry’s leading photo-based biometric patient identification platform. It seamlessly integrates with the major EHR systems and becomes part of the workflow. Patients are registered by locking their medical records with their photos. After enrollment, incoming patients only need to look at the camera and the platform matches the photos and provides accurate medical records within seconds. This ensures a safe, easy, touchless, and hygienic patient identification experience for everyone.

RightPatient ensures that the correct patient is identified every time across the care continuum, helping you maintain patient data integrity. With RightPatient, you can send out the correct patient’s notification every time, ensuring CMS compliance and safeguarding your patients and, in turn, your business.

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5 Tips for Preventing Medical Identity Theft in Healthcare

Hospitals, medical centers, and physicians’ offices are not only places where patients should feel safe about getting the right medications, but it should be a place where they also feel safe with their sensitive information. Unfortunately, with the rise in the number of healthcare data breaches, the market is even riper for medical identity theft. Over 41 million patient records were breached in 2019 alone and the majority of them were associated with hacking or cyber attack-related incidents. 

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Preventing medical identity theft has been one of the top priorities, yet many organizations still rely on antiquated patient identity management solutions. Many leading hospitals, namely, Terrebonne General Medical Center and The University Healthcare System have been successful in preventing medical identity theft and benefitted in many other ways since using RightPatient. Other benefits include eliminating duplication of medical records, improving patient identity matching rates, clinical efficiency, and boosting the overall revenue cycle. But what about medical identity theft? How are patients affected by it? What are the ways for preventing medical identity theft? Let’s find out.

What is Medical Identity Theft?

Medical identity theft occurs when a fraudster uses someone else’s personally identifiable information (e.g. name, DOB, Social Security Number, health insurance number) to fraudulently receive medications or services, including attempts to falsify medical billings. The healthcare industry would have billions of dollars in surplus if all healthcare providers could prevent medical identity theft. This crime involves the fraudulent use of someone’s health insurance information to obtain reimbursement for healthcare-related services provided to a person not covered by the policy. This is one of the most common reasons for the rise in the numbers of claim denials. It affects revenue integrity and requires organizations to put in more strenuous efforts and resources to identify and resolve the problem throughout the revenue cycle management.

How are patients affected by medical identity theft?

Patients may not be able to afford the cost: Financial consequences for the victims of medical identity theft can exceed the cost of credit card fraud. According to a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, medical identity theft can cost an average American $13,500 to resolve.

Victims may not be aware of their information being stolen: In most cases, insurers or healthcare providers rarely inform the patients about the crime. In general, victims are completely unaware of when they became a victim and learn about the theft of their credentials about three months after the crime has occurred.

Reputations can be on the line: Found in many studies, victims said that their reputation was affected because of medical identity theft due to disclosure of personal sensitive health information. Many respondents believe they missed out on good career opportunities due to identity theft. Some said it resulted in the loss of their job.

5 Tips for Preventing Medical Identity Theft

Invest in modern patient identity management technology and software

With the transition of paper-based patient’s records to electronic-based record-keeping systems, it is necessary to invest in modern technology and software for preventing medical identity theft. For better security and matching rates, many healthcare providers have adopted RightPatient – a leader in touchless biometric patient identity management solutions. With RightPatient, healthcare providers can verify patients’ identities and protect access to medical records. RightPatient does not only help in preventing medical identity theft but it also drastically improves patient matching rates and eliminates the creation of duplicate records.

Just as facial recognition or iris scanning techniques are used in smartphone devices today, this platform uses similar biometric techniques in a healthcare setting for authenticating and verifying an individual’s identity. RightPatient uses an individual’s iris pattern or photos of their face to lock their medical records. Each time a patient arrives at the continuum of care, the platform will scan their iris pattern or photos of their face to authenticate their identity and retrieve their correct medical records. With secure-log-in monitoring, fraudsters will be instantly denied when they try to gain access to medical records by assuming someone’s identity. 

Automating the patient registration and enrollment process

Automating the patient registration and enrollment process can eliminate the hassle of a long, complicated registration process, save valuable time and resources, and reduce errors at the same time. Criminals can easily obtain or use someone else’s common identifiers, such as names, SSNs, and DOB for fraudulent use. Many times common identifiers have also been the main cause of the creation of duplicate identities or record mismatching. Paper-based records are also vulnerable to how easily they can end up in the wrong hands. With RightPatient, transitioning to an automated patient enrollment system will be seamless. 

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Streamline workflow and maintain compliance

Protected health information (PHI) is like a treasure box for cybercriminals and thieves. PHI contains valuable sensitive information and can easily be worth more than credit card numbers on the black market. This is why the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was established to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI. HIPAA requires healthcare organizations to implement appropriate safeguards to better protect patients’ information so it doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. Maintaining compliance with HIPAA can be quite strenuous, but organizations can use HIPAA compliance software to streamline their compliance efforts and reduce administrative burden. Adopting the best security practices to limit unauthorized access or disclosure of patient information is crucial for preventing medical identity theft.

Robust bring your own device (BYOD) and network access policy

Personal devices should be secured before accessing a patient’s information across the network. A proper BYOD policy must be developed and maintained. For instance, is it safe for employees to bring company-issued devices back home? Many times, thieves get access to sensitive information when devices such as laptops, tablets, or smartphones get stolen from the office, home, or even from a car. Hospitals should also install a separate internet wi-fi network for visitors and patients to restrict access to the organization’s internal network. 

Educate your employees and patients and instill a culture of best privacy practice

Not all data breaches are malicious – human error is inevitable. From emailing sensitive data to the wrong person to accidentally posting on social media or leaving a laptop open, information can be disclosed in many ways. It is essential for healthcare providers to conduct proper training and educate their staff members, working in any capacity with medical information on how to handle and access PHI in an appropriate manner and identify suspicious behaviors for preventing medical identity theft. Training can be easily streamlined using applications.

Many hospitals always strive to do their best when it comes to securing patient information. The occurrence of medical identity theft is unfortunate but isn’t rare at all. Hospitals should also advise patients and encourage them to keep their sensitive information safe and be cautious when sharing sensitive information. 

Preventing Medical Identity Theft with RightPatient

Even during this COVID-19 national emergency crisis, medical identity theft is continuously becoming a great threat to the safety of patients and healthcare providers. Besides being the leader in patient identity management, RightPatient offers completely touchless biometric modules for patient identification. With RightPatient, healthcare providers can easily prevent medical identity theft and improve patient safety along with hygiene in a facility by removing physical contact, thus, limiting the spread of contagious diseases. 

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Patient Identification in Hospitals is in Dire Need of an Upgrade After COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed the world around us in unprecedented ways. In fact, it is still shaping how we will interact with each other in the future for years to come. Social distancing, ensuring proper hygiene at all times, and wearing PPE whenever we step outside have become the norms and it will be so for quite some time. Naturally, hospitals have been the most affected parties due to the coronavirus, since they are the ones treating the patients. As different parts of the US are opening up gradually, it is quite natural that healthcare providers would open their doors too. However, changes are advised to ensure that patient safety is improved while hospitals are reopening. One of the most important changes required is the overhaul of patient identification in hospitals since that is usually the first point of contact for both patients and caregivers. Let’s look at why most of the current patient identifiers can pose threats now, and how a touchless solution like RightPatient is the only choice going forward.

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Why is patient identification in hospitals important?

Patient identification errors have been haunting the US healthcare system for a long time now. The consequences of patient misidentifications can be quite severe for both providers and patients. Patients can suffer from shocking bills, the wrong treatment, repeated care or lab test results, and even death. Providers, on the other hand, may experience denied claims, unwanted attention, the costs associated with fixing duplicate records and overlays, and loss of goodwill. As can be clearly understood, patient identification errors can cause irreparable damage to all those who are associated with them. But how is the US healthcare system identifying its patients?

What patient identification was before COVID-19

Patient identification in hospitals has, admittedly, been quite fragmented. Different providers use different strategies to identify their patients. Let’s look at some of the common means of patient identification along with their pros and cons, as well as why RightPatient is the perfect choice for accurate patient identification.

Even though there are a variety of patient identification solutions available, some hospitals still prefer to use the decades-old method of identifying patients by asking them questions to find their respective EHRs. The EHR user may ask the patients to state their names, addresses, DOB, ID numbers (if appropriate), and so on. The only good thing about this is it is mostly touchless. However, the costs outweigh the only benefit of this archaic method. It is slow, tedious, time-consuming, and cannot detect if someone else is pretending to be the patient, leading to medical identity theft.

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Another popular method is using patient ID wristbands. While this is more accurate than just asking questions, it has its drawbacks as well. It can be transferred or stolen, leading to others using healthcare services assigned for a different patient, committing medical identity theft. More importantly, it is also contact based, something which everyone is quite reluctant to do nowadays, but more on that later.

One of the most accurate ways to identify patients is by utilizing features patients do not share with anyone else, that is, the features that are unique to them. This is where biometrics comes into play. For instance, modalities like fingerprint and palm-vein scanning drastically improve accurate patient identification. However, these would require the patients to touch the devices for identity verification, which was off-putting for leading healthcare providers. These would cause infection control issues. For instance, a patient with a contagious disease could come in, touch the device, and effectively contaminate it, unless it is cleaned after every usage. It would be a nightmare for all those involved in the process.

What COVID-19 taught us

Prior to the pandemic, not many patients would have thought about it. After COVID-19, however, the majority of patients would be extremely reluctant to use touch-based solutions for patient identification, as they have a fear of contracting the highly contagious virus now. Thus, acceptance rates for touch-based solutions would be quite low now. Thus, patient identification in hospitals needs to be upgraded to enhance patient safety as well as accuracy. 

So, what are the leading healthcare providers using for accurate patient identification?

What patient identification should be after COVID-19

The leading touchless biometric patient identification platform, RightPatient, is being used by providers like Grady Health, Duke Health, and University Health Care System. So, what makes RightPatient so different yet effective? 

It locks the medical records of the patients with a photo of them upon registration. When registered patients return, all they need to do is look at the camera; the platform recognizes them and produces the correct medical record within seconds. All of this can be done easily and without a single touch from the patient!

RightPatient ticks all the right boxes – it ensures accurate patient identification, successfully prevents medical identity theft, reduces denied claims, prevents new duplicate records, and enhances patient safety by providing them a touchless solution. All of these benefits lead to boosting the bottom line of healthcare providers – something that they really need right now. 

RightPatient has been protecting over ten million patient records already, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become the only viable solution. Are you still using outdated platforms? It is high time to make the change and upgrade to RightPatient. 

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The Importance of Positive Patient Identification and how it affects Hospitals

The importance of positive patient identification is known throughout most of the U.S. healthcare system. Many healthcare providers are failing to do patient identification properly. The absence of a positive patient identification system results in patients not being matched accurately against his or her assigned electronic health record (EHR).

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Patient identification errors are nothing new

Patient identification errors have been around for a long, long time now, since the days of paper medical records. With the introduction of EHRs into the U.S. healthcare system, many thought that it would add a lot of benefits, such as faster searches for records, better sharing of information (interoperability), lower storage space, no risk of losing records, and proper patient identification. However, while EHRs did deliver on most of the promises, human errors, as well as other factors, have contributed to a lack of interoperability and absence of accurate patient identification. As patients must be matched accurately with their medical records, the importance of positive patient identification can never be ignored by the healthcare system.

The importance of positive patient identification

Positive patient identification is crucial for providing value-based care, ensuring patient safety, care coordination, as well as improving a hospital’s finances. However, there are a lot of impediments to accurate patient identification – the most common one is duplicate medical records. Sometimes, patient matching errors can even cause the loss of the lives of patients.

 These identification errors cause major issues for healthcare providers, mainly denied claims, repetitive tests, wrong treatments, reporting errors, loss of reputation, and unwanted media attention – all of which result in financial losses. For instance, denied claims cost almost $5 million on average for any hospital and this loss of revenue can lead to a hospital closing down.

Some statistics

A survey conducted in 2019 has shed light on the issues which hamper positive patient identification. 66% of the participants stated that data entry errors are the main culprit. The survey also states that the lack of entry of a single medication or test can lead to severe adverse effects for a patient, hampering patient safety, as it will lead to wrong decisions regarding the treatment. Thus, the importance of positive patient identification cannot be stressed enough.

46% of the respondents stated that improper, or the lack of an effective patient identification algorithm is another reason for patient identification errors. 35% of respondents said that the lack of an industrywide standard hampers effective patient identification.

Ensure positive patient identification

RightPatient is a biometric patient identification platform that was created with the importance of positive patient identification. It locks the medical records of the patients with their biometric data such as their irises – once the patient registers, all the patient has to do is look at the camera, and the accurate medical record is presented in seconds. It creates an effortless patient identification experience for both patients and hospitals. It improves the revenue cycle, minimizes loss, improves patient safety, and prevents medical identity theft. Several pioneering healthcare providers are using it – are you one of them?

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Duplicate Medical Records Impact Patient Safety in Hospitals

Ensuring patient safety is one of the top priorities for any hospital. Experts suggest that the mismatch and duplication of patient data have damaged the U.S. medical system and caused potentially fatal consequences. Let’s see how duplicates hamper patient safety in hospitals.

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Duplicate medical records may occur in different ways. The most common repetitive error occurs during the patient registration process. This situation also occurs when the unconscious patient cannot be identified. Sometimes, duplicates are created based on the patient’s demographic changes; the registrar may fail to find the patient’s last name and decide to create a new record. Patients must be identified reliably and consistently so that healthcare providers can have a complete view and make the best decisions.

Duplicate records are costly for E.D.

According to a report from 2019, approximately 18% of patient records within organizations are duplicates. Such duplicate records cost an average of over $1,950 per hospitalization, while the medical system spends more than the USD 800 per emergency (E.D.) visit.

Duplicate records cause delay and improper treatment

One-fifth of the patients have incomplete health records due to duplicate data, so they cannot fully view the patient’s medical records. This also leads to delays, unnecessary tests, or improper treatment of the patients. 

There are bad examples of duplicate medical records

Duplicate records pose a remarkable level of threats to the provision of proper care and patient safety in hospitals while carrying some significant consequences. In one incident, a woman’s mammogram was mistakenly assigned to another lady’s chart. As a result, her diagnosis was postponed, and the clinician was unable to start her treatment until the diagnosis was confirmed.

Patients might end up with the wrong drugs

Duplicate medical records also harm prescription drugs. If a patient receives medications according to the wrong prescription and the clinician does not acknowledge the patient’s drug history, then the probability of a fatal outcome is high.

Duplicate medical records add unnecessary expenses to hospitals  

A survey from 2018 revealed that duplicate patient EHRs cost hospitals an average of $1,950 per patient. 33% of all denied claims were caused by mismatched or incorrect patient information – as found by the survey. Such denied claims caused an average of $1.5 million to the health care system in 2017 and $6 billion annually as a whole. Data sharing continues to grow and poses challenges to the safety of virtual medical records; hence, resolving the issue regarding patient records has become an increasingly urgent and complicated task. 

The challenge of patient identification can be solved if patient records are accurately identified against a patient’s unique feature, and RightPatient does just that. It creates a closed-loop patient record that can only be accessed through biometric identification – ensuring that the patient data is locked and irreversible. Once the inscription is done, patients only need to scan their biometrics – RightPatient to identify the accurate medical record within seconds and submit it to the hospital staff. The duplicate medical records of health systems such as Community Medical Centers and University Health Care System have been significantly reduced, which can help improve emergency medical response and ensure patient data safety.