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Senators Focusing on Improved EHR Data Shows the Importance of Patient Identification

Unfortunately, even now, many believe that patient misidentification is not a significant issue within the US healthcare system. Even many healthcare providers don’t think of it as a huge problem. They fail to acknowledge that patient misidentification corrupts EHR data significantly, leads to patient record mix-ups, is one of the causes of wrong medical procedures, causes avoidable medical errors, and more.

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Let’s break down why they are wrong and how patient misidentification is a huge issue by observing what others are doing to solve it and how RightPatient is helping ensure positive patient identification

Patient misidentification is a huge deal – corrupting EHR data is just one of its consequences

A crucial factor that can lead to better patient safety within hospitals, according to the Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goals for 2021, is by identifying patients accurately. That’s precisely why it has listed improving patient identification on the top of its list. Each year, the Joint Commission releases goals based on research that they believe will enhance patient safety. Each year, patient identification improvement is always one of the many goals, sometimes even topping the list (just like this year).

There are many healthcare organizations and associations such as AHIMA (The American Health Information Management Association) and CHIME (The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives) that focus on patient misidentification, its consequences (EHR data corruption, patient safety issues, detrimental healthcare outcomes), and the need for accurate patient identification.

Even last year, many organizations came together and formed a coalition called “Patient ID Now” for a national patient identifier. Unfortunately, there is very little progress in that area (as of now), and if the past tells us something, then the UPI (unique patient identifier) is still far from reality. Many organizations, healthcare experts, and officials urge the government to lift the ban on creating a state-funded UPI. Unfortunately, the ban has been in effect for more than two decades due to “privacy concerns”. 

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However, while all of that is occurring, patient misidentification is still thriving and causing issues such as duplicate medical records, corrupting EHR data, hampering patient safety, causing avoidable medical errors, and more. Fortunately, more people are identifying how big of a problem it is. 

Patient misidentification is an issue significant enough to bring senators from different parties together. An effort taken by bipartisan senators is focused on improving patient record matching in hospitals and health systems, something that they believe is crucial for vaccine distribution as well.

Called the “Patient Matching Improvement Act”, it aims to provide vaccination sites, hospitals, and testing labs access to the US Postal Service’s address-formatting tool for improving patient record linkages. They believe that this will help contact tracing efforts and track community spread more accurately.

After the pandemic, it will also help improve EHR data within hospitals and health systems as they believe it will help improve patient identification. But will it be enough on its own, if it ever leaves the Senate health committee? What are responsible caregivers doing now to prevent patient misidentification? 

RightPatient effectively prevents data corruption

While there are several solutions available, the most feasible one, given the pandemic, is RightPatient. It is a touchless biometric patient identification platform that is the choice of responsible healthcare providers. Since it is touchless, it doesn’t create infection control issues for healthcare providers – improving patient safety and ensuring hygiene.

It enhances patient safety, prevents medical identity theft in real-time, ensures that patients are identified at any touchpoint across the care continuum, and is even ideal for telehealth sessions.

However, if the Patient Matching Improvement Act is introduced, RightPatient can augment its effectiveness further, as it is a tried and tested platform used by responsible caregivers – are you one of them?

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RightPatient Can Prevent Medical Mistakes, Patient Mix-ups, and More

While 2020 felt like a very long year for all the wrong reasons, it has been already two months into 2021, fortunately. However, COVID-19 is still having a significant effect, especially on the US healthcare system. One of the many issues that were present even during the COVID-19 waves was patient identification errors, and it demonstrated that healthcare providers need to upgrade their patient identification systems immediately. Patient record mix-ups, preventable medical mistakes, sending reports to the wrong patients, and not finding the patient records were just a few of the problems healthcare teams faced during the pandemic.

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However, there’s a more serious concern up ahead. As the vaccine starts to slowly but steadily reach the general public, potential vaccine mix-ups might occur as a result of patient misidentification. This will severely jeopardize vaccine rollouts and make them lose their efficacy.

While patient identification issues and their several consequences have been present for a long time, they can be prevented with an effective patient identification platform like RightPatient – let’s explore.

How RightPatient works to prevent medical mistakes

RightPatient is a touchless biometric patient identification platform that helps hospitals and health systems prevent patient identification errors and mix-ups. It attaches the patent’s photo and biometric data to the medical records during registration. During subsequent visits, patients are required only to look at the camera – the platform verifies their identities and provides the appropriate medical records.

One of the best parts is that RightPatient is contactless, making it feasible for a post-pandemic environment, as it prevents HAIs (hospital-acquired infections). Moreover, it can also be used at any touchpoint across the care continuum, making it ideal for telehealth sessions. 

That was a lot about how RightPatient works – let’s see the issues it prevents – and can prevent – for healthcare providers. 

The problems RightPatient addresses

RightPatient prevents duplicate medical records

Duplicate medical records have been creating mix-ups, preventable medical mistakes, and more, leading to detrimental patient outcomes, impacting patient safety, revenue cycle issues, and lower bottom lines. Since RightPatient can identify registered patients right from the start, it prevents the creation of additional duplicate medical records as well as medical errors – improving patient safety and healthcare outcomes.

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RightPatient eliminates preventable medical mistakes

One of the biggest issues patient identification errors create is medical errors. For instance, patient A will get medications that are actually required by patient B – a single mistake can be disastrous. Moreover, there have been cases where one patient received a transplant that was supposed to be received by an entirely different patient. However, since their names or demographic characteristics were similar, a mix-up occurred. Fortunately, RightPatient prevents such cases – ensuring quality and safety in healthcare facilities.

RightPatient prevents medical identity theft and protects patient data

One of the prominent reasons medical identity theft cases are successful is because there is no way to catch the fraudster. Conventional patient verification methods are not well-equipped to handle misidentifications, let alone detect fraudsters.

Fortunately, RightPatient can accurately identify patients using their photos; whenever the fraudster tries to pass themselves off as the patient (or victim), the platform red-flags them, preventing medical identity theft in real-time. This helps in a number of ways – patient information is protected from being corrupted, litigation costs are prevented by the healthcare provider and patient safety is ensured.

Can RightPatient prevent vaccine mix-ups?

While most of us among the general public wait for the vaccine rollouts, we have to remember that, at this point, to ensure maximum protection, we require two doses of the vaccine. However, imagine this – a hospital is housing vaccines from two different manufacturers. What if a patient receives the shot of Pfizer’s vaccine the first time and the second dose is from Moderna? 

Unfortunately, vaccine mix-ups are occurring as we speak, and it might significantly reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines, putting numerous lives at risk. Moreover, many of these cases might occur due to patient misidentification.

Fortunately, RightPatient can help hospitals and health systems to determine patients’ identities accurately, prevent record mix-ups, and ensure efficient vaccine administration without any hiccups, enhancing patient protection against the virus.

Responsible healthcare providers have been using RightPatient for years – preventing patient safety issues, avoidable medical mistakes, duplicate medical records, and medical identity theft in real-time. Contact us now to be a more responsible healthcare provider.

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8 Strategies That Enhance Safety in Hospitals

Healthcare has always been under scrutiny by everyone, and it’s quite natural. After all, it is a system that has a direct impact on our lives. Diving deeper, one of the aspects that are examined thoroughly is safety in hospitals, and for good reason. For starters, hospitals are havens where the sick and injured ones among us go for treatment. Since the critically ill patients are already vulnerable, they need to be guaranteed a safe environment so that their health doesn’t worsen, for instance, by contracting viruses.

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However, patient safety is just one side of the coin – physicians, nurses, and other staff members also need to be guaranteed safety. Just think about the COVID-19 fiasco – a patient with the virus can just pass it on to anyone in the hospital who is without protection. Thus, safety for both patients and hospital staff members is crucial to ensure quality and safety in healthcare facilities.

While we just explained why safety within healthcare facilities is important, let’s take a closer look at how it can be improved – for both patients and the hospital staff members.

Strategies that enhance safety in hospitals 

Have a robust patient safety policy in place

One of the most crucial ways to improve patient safety in hospitals is by having a written policy in place. It must outline the do’s and don’ts regarding normal as well as emergency patient safety incidents that may potentially occur within the premises. Having such a plan is more crucial than ever, given the pandemic. For instance, what to do during outbreaks, what to do when a patient contracts a virus, and similar scenarios must be included in the plan.

Keep critical materials in stock at all times

Healthcare providers know how big of a challenge COVID-19 has been. In fact, it is still wreaking havoc across the US healthcare system as well as the rest of the world. Using PPE in the new normal is important, not only for the individual’s safety but also for everyone else around them. 

Hospitals, however, are places where PPE is an absolute must. While surgical masks, gloves, etc. have been used for years by physicians and nurses mostly, it is required by everyone within healthcare facilities.

Thus, keeping a healthy amount of quality PPE in stock is a crucial factor that impacts both patient and employee safety – it helps safely provide uninterrupted healthcare services. Moreover, reordering them when inventory drops to around 40% is a good strategy – remember, most of these materials are disposable!

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Enforce safety measures on everyone on the premises

While there may be many individuals who might not like masks or other PPE, don’t let such behavior put your patients in jeopardy – it severely hampers safety in hospitals. Enforce rules within the healthcare facilities that apply to everyone. For instance, place posters on entrances and strategic places with messages that highlight the importance of masks as well as the fact that nobody is allowed to be there without proper PPE. Enforce social distancing as well, especially during patient registration, as many can forget about it during crucial moments.

Ensure proper waste management

This is a common but critical issue for any given healthcare provider, as most of them deal with discharges such as excretion, blood, etc. that might be contaminated. Properly label the trash cans or containers where these types of wastage go and also provide the employees with proper safeguards (masks, gloves, eye protection) so that they are safe while handling these materials. This won’t only help improve their safety, but the safety of everyone else they come in contact with.

Disinfectant commonly touched surfaces and materials

COVID-19 has demonstrated how quickly and effectively viruses spread and how they stay on surfaces for an extended period. Ensure that beds, bed sheets, and any other surfaces are kept clean regularly. Also, use disposable glasses, plates, and materials whenever possible so that transmission is kept to a minimum.

Continuously work on improving safety

Ensuring safety once is not enough in such a rapidly changing environment – any responsible hospital or health system must take safety as a process rather than a task. 

Set meaningful targets to improve patient safety, tools to monitor them, and follow up to observe how you are doing. For instance, zero patient harm can be a huge challenge, but moving toward that goal and implementing the practices required for it can significantly reduce patient safety incidents.

Deploy solutions that boost patient safety in hospitals

There are many solutions available that improve patient safety. However, one of the most crucial ones right now is RightPatient – a touchless biometric patient identification platform. But why is it needed so badly now?

Well, patient identification errors have been causing problems even during the pandemic and RightPatient solves that effectively. However, the best part is that it is entirely touchless, something that is a must in a post-pandemic world. All the patients need to do is look at the camera during – the platform attaches a photo and biometric data with the EHRs during registration. For subsequent visits, RightPatient runs a search when patients arrive and look at the camera, and provides the appropriate medical records in seconds. This helps to reduce HAIs (hospital-acquired infections) as there is no physical contact required. Moreover, patient safety is improved, medical errors are prevented, and healthcare outcomes are improved with RightPatient. 

Streamline OSHA compliance to improve employee safety

Hospitals have a lot on their plates as they must focus on employee safety as well as patient safety. Thankfully, CloudApper Safety, an OSHA recordkeeping software, can help with that. 

Employees can use it to share the best practices they deem suitable using their smartphones, and one of the main highlights is that the app can be used using mobile devices. Healthcare employees can report accidents, injuries, and near misses along with photos – helping streamline OSHA compliance. The management, on the other hand, can use all of the data, and work on corrective actions – improving safety in hospitals. It helps remove the administrative burden, streamline OSHA compliance, as well as reduce workplace safety incidents – enhancing safety for everyone involved.

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Improving Quality of Care for Patients – 3 Tech Trends to Watch Out for

2020 feels like yesterday – while it did seem like the longest year due to COVID-19 and a number of other issues, we’ve finally stepped into 2021. The pandemic did bring a lot of hardship, took a lot from us, and has changed our lives forever. However, it did also show new ways to do things we thought were never possible. For instance, virtually everyone has worked remotely (many still are doing it) and telehealth usage exploded. COVID-19 changed reality for everyone and everything, but it affected healthcare the most, especially that of the US. Many hospitals had to shut their doors, whereas many health systems closed down some of their facilities. However, one of the most dramatic changes to healthcare was telehealth, and it looks like it’s here to stay. The pandemic has also forced many to adopt or come up with technology that has the potential to improve the quality of care for patients – let’s take a look at some of the promising ones.

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3 tech trends that can improve the quality of care for patients 

Telehealth

Quite unsurprisingly, telehealth is the tech to look out for in 2021. Telehealth has been growing immensely, and it’s finally getting all the attention it deserves. Since the pandemic started, the focus has been on two things – treating COVID-19 patients by allocating whatever resources required and diverting non-critical patients to virtual sessions. Months later, telehealth has been the icing on the cake – it helped reduce infections as well as helped patients receive care online without having to leave the safety of their homes. While it still might have some issues to iron out, all trends point toward a healthcare system that significantly uses virtual care. 

Moving toward the cloud

Some large players are entering the healthcare system and they are definitely going to attract the attention of hospitals and health systems to store their data online. With data breaches becoming more common than ever, it shows that most of the existing cybersecurity measures taken by hospitals are not up to the mark, mostly because of budgetary issues. 

While not everything can be moved to the cloud, many critical pieces of information can be, and that can ultimately help healthcare providers as it can be used to securely access data from anywhere – something that has become mandatory since the pandemic. 

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All of this cannot only make sharing and retrieving data more convenient but also improve healthcare processes by making them faster and more reliable – improving the quality of care for patients.

Touchless solutions 

Due to the pandemic, the entire world is working hard to reduce or eliminate touch-based processes or solutions. Even in the healthcare space, touchless solutions will be seen in the coming years. However, did you know that such a solution already exists and that many forward-thinking hospitals have already been using it? 

RightPatient is a touchless biometric patient identification platform that has been helping responsible healthcare providers for years. It is tried and tested, is versatile, and is helping enhance patient safety. But why exactly should more healthcare providers adopt it going forward? Well, that’s because the pandemic has shown everyone how deadly physical contact can be and how quickly people can get infected.

Quite naturally, it means that everyone knows about the cons of touch-based solutions. Most patient identification platforms require physical touches from patients – raising infection control issues. Fortunately, RightPatient is entirely touchless – it attaches a photo and biometric data of the patient with their EHR. After enrollment, all a patient needs to do is look at the camera – the platform performs a search and provides the appropriate medical record in seconds. 

Moreover. RightPatient is versatile enough to be used at any touchpoint within the healthcare facility, making it feasible for telehealth sessions. Patients are sent an SMS or email after they schedule appointments. They are required to provide a selfie and a photo of their driver’s license – RightPatient automatically compares the pictures, ensuring remote authentication. 

RightPatient not only solves a crucial problem of healthcare providers (patient misidentification), but it also helps improve patient safety, reduce duplicate medical records, and prevent medical identity theft effectively. Be a responsible healthcare leader now and use RightPatient to improve your bottom line by improving the quality of care for patients.

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Positive Patient Outcomes Are Still Hampered by Patient Identification Issues

At this point in time, virtually everyone knows about the coronavirus pandemic, unless they have been living under a rock. Unfortunately, COVID-19’s effects on the US have been disastrous, especially on its healthcare system. The numbers for the US are mindboggling – over 13 million people have contracted COVID-19, whereas over 268,000 people have lost their lives. Moreover, cases are increasing rapidly as was predicted by experts. Things are more serious than ever – restrictions are being placed in many states, encouraging social distancing and fewer social gatherings. Suffice to say, the novel coronavirus has been pushing healthcare to its limits. While doing so, it has also highlighted the existing issues that have been hampering positive patient outcomes for years and need to be addressed quickly.

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Let’s take a closer look at one of the overlooked but more prominent issues – patient misidentification, why it’s such a mess, what caregivers are doing to address it, and how RightPatient ensures positive patient identification for responsible caregivers.

Patient misidentification and how it hampers positive patient outcomes

It is quite straightforward – patient misidentification refers to patients being associated with the wrong, incomplete, inconsistent, or fragmented EHR (electronic health record). This usually happens at registration desks as well as EDs (emergency departments). But it sounds so simple, right? Actually, patient identification errors are much more complicated than that. 

Both registration desks and EDs are high-pressure environments where patients’ EHRs need to be identified quickly and accurately. Unfortunately, issues such as duplicate medical records, common patient names or demographics, and basic search functionalities lead to confusion, after which patient record mix-ups occur. While this was a simplified example, this is how most misidentification cases occur, leading to lower positive patient outcomes down the line.

Thousands of patients are affected every year – facing delayed care, repeated lab tests, shocking bills, detrimental healthcare outcomes, medical errors, and even deaths. Using an effective, standardized patient identifier across the hospitals would be enough to eliminate such issues, but there’s a snag.

Why is patient identification such a mess?

Well, a state-funded UPI (unique patient identifier) was supposed to be created to ensure accurate patient identification, eliminating all the issues associated with mix-ups, and ensuring positive patient outcomes. Fast forward around two decades, and there’s still not a national patient identifier on the horizon.

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A ban has been in effect since the beginning – Section 510 of the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill restricts the use of federal funding to allow HHS (the US Department of Health and Human Services) from creating or adopting a unique patient identifier.

For the past twenty years or so, healthcare providers have been struggling with patient identification errors and as a result, are experiencing duplicate medical records, overlays, detrimental healthcare outcomes, lower scores, denied claims, and more. Moreover, medical identity theft can be prevented in real-time if patients can be properly identified during registration.

While it has been an overlooked issue, patient misidentification has been causing adverse outcomes during the pandemic – repeated testing, medical errors, lost results, and so on. Imagine if a COVID-19 test result was sent to the wrong person and they were admitted into the isolation wing! 

What healthcare providers are doing

Every year, healthcare providers and experts come together to urge Congress and the Senate to abolish the ban so that a unique patient identifier can be made. Unfortunately, they’ve been turned down every year, leading to another year of struggle.

However, responsible healthcare providers are not waiting around for a unique patient identifier – they are implementing effective solutions to prevent mix-ups, the most feasible one being RightPatient.

RightPatient ensures positive patient outcomes

RightPatient is a touchless biometric patient identification solution that has been helping responsible healthcare providers for years. It uses the patients’ faces to verify their identities and provide accurate medical records within seconds.

After appointment scheduling, patients need to provide a selfie and a photo of their driver’s license. RightPatient automatically compares the photos for a match, verifying patient identification remotely. New patients are provided with biometric credentials for future use. It locks the medical records with patients’ photos to prevent mix-ups. Moreover, the platform is flexible enough to be used at any touchpoint, making it ideal for telehealth sessions too. 

Within hospitals, the patients only need to look at the camera – the platform compares the live picture with the one saved with the EHR. The accurate medical records are provided within seconds, ensuring positive patient identification, enhancing healthcare outcomes, and preventing medical errors and all other issues associated with misidentification. Moreover, it can red-flag fraudsters who try to assume patients’ identities, preventing medical identity theft in real-time.

RightPatient is the most feasible patient identification solution currently because it is contactless – leading to a more hygienic environment and reducing infection control issues, something which is crucial for COVID-19.

Even if the UPI gets approval in the future, it will take years for it to be created, implemented, and be effective. Forward-thinking caregivers will thus be coupling it with an experienced patient identifier like RightPatient to ensure immaculate identification across the care continuum.

Healthcare providers such as Baptist Health South Florida, MediSys Health, Grady Health, and Catholic Health Services of Long Island have been using RightPatient to ensure positive patient outcomes, eliminate misidentification, and ensure patient safety across their facilities.

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2021’s Patient Safety Goals Show that Patient Identification Is the Topmost Concern

This has been a devastating year all around for the entire world due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects. Even though there have been a lot of issues within the US healthcare system that surfaced during the pandemic, one of the more prominent problems healthcare providers faced (and are still facing) is patient identification errors. Experts have talked about and how patient misidentification is detrimental to both patient safety and quality healthcare. Thus, it isn’t surprising that improving the accuracy of patient identification takes the top spot of 2021’s patient safety goals as per the Joint Commission.

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Let’s take a look at the new goals set by the Joint Commission, why improving patient identification can help achieve the other goals, and how RightPatient can help healthcare providers.

Patient safety goals for next year

The Joint Commission outlines the top patient safety concerns that healthcare providers must address each year based on available information. Patient identification has been on the list almost constantly because errors can cause a lot of adverse effects for patient safety, healthcare outcomes, hospitals’ finances, etc. – more on that later.

Let’s take a look at the national patient safety goals for the upcoming year 2021:

  • Identify patients accurately.
  • Improve staff communication.
  • Safely use medicines.
  • Reduce patient harm by improving clinical alarm systems.
  • Reduce hospital-acquired infections.
  • Identify patient safety risks within the healthcare facility.
  • Prevent surgical mistakes.

While these are different issues, some of these patient safety goals can be met, or at least the unwanted incidents can be reduced, by ensuring accurate patient identification with RightPatient.

How patient identification ties in with other patient safety goals

While patient identification errors might seem trivial to some, there have been many complaints about the different problems which were consequences of misidentification – not finding the accurate medical record, delays in care, repeated tests, etc. As a result, many healthcare experts are clamoring for the mythical national patient identifier once again this year. However, national patient identifier or not, patient identification must be accurate to mitigate patient safety issues. Moreover, by ensuring accurate patient identification, other patient safety goals can be met – let’s explore how.

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Improving staff communication

Communication is crucial for ensuring improved healthcare outcomes and reducing patient safety incidents across the care continuum. By ensuring that patient data is accurate and consistent, it will enhance outcomes, as most patient safety incidents occur when patient data is corrupted, fragmented, obsolete, or inconsistent.

When patients are accurately identified every time at any touchpoint across the hospital, it helps maintain patient data integrity, ensures that the correct information regarding the patient is used, leading to accurate test results being passed to the appropriate personnel at the right time.

Safely use medicines

Many patient safety incidents occur because of simply giving the wrong patients the wrong medicine, incorrect doses, and/or at the wrong time, leading to preventable medical errors. While clearly labeling and rechecking do help, many medical errors occur because of patient misidentification. For instance, if the patient is misidentified right from registration, rechecking the name or information won’t help, as it belongs to someone else entirely.

If patients are accurately identified from the start, not only will patient misidentification be eliminated, but medical errors will be prevented too, enhancing patient safety and improving healthcare outcomes in the process.

Prevent surgical mistakes

This is somewhat related to the previous point, but medical record mix-ups do lead to the wrong surgeries being performed as well. If the patient is misidentified during registration, rechecking won’t help, as it will lead to the wrong surgery being performed on the wrong patient. 

Only by identifying patients accurately at the front-end can mistakes such as patient record mix-ups be prevented effectively.

Reduce hospital-acquired infections

Now, how can patient identification reduce hospital-acquired infections (HAIs)?

Well, as there is no standardized patient identifier present in the US healthcare system, many caregivers are using different solutions to fit their needs. However, many of these solutions can be ineffective and are touch-based, which is a major challenge, given the pandemic. These touch-based solutions can lead to infection control issues, as they require contact by multiple individuals. If an infected person uses it, the subsequent patients will be infected as well, leading to a disastrous situation.

However, many caregivers are using innovative solutions such as RightPatient – a touchless biometric patient identification platform. It uses the patients’ photos to ensure that the patients are who they claim to be, preventing patient identification errors, mix-ups, duplicate medical records, and more. It can also be used across any touchpoint, starting from appointment scheduling.

How RightPatient works – improving patient safety

Patients need to provide a selfie and a photo of their driver’s license – the platform automatically compares them for a match, remotely verifying their identities. During inpatient visits, the patients only need to look at the camera – the platform provides accurate medical records within seconds after comparing the live picture with the saved one.

RightPatient thus prevents HAIs as it is a contactless solution, enhancing patient safety, improving patient outcomes, and reducing preventable medical errors across the care continuum.

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4 Strategies Hospitals Use to Prevent Medical Identity Theft Cases

The US healthcare system has been plagued with several issues over the years. The lack of price transparency, interoperability issues, sky-high prices, and the lack of a standardized patient identifier are just some of them. One of the more concerning, and increasingly common, issues is medical identity, affecting more and more healthcare providers and patients. While providers are already facing huge losses due to the pandemic, they need to mitigate them by reducing preventable costs. One viable solution can be to reduce medical identity theft cases, and doing so will bring several benefits.

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Let’s take a look at how medical identity theft happens, how common it is, and some strategies that can prevent it and mitigate losses.

How do medical identity theft cases happen?

Medical identity theft can occur in many ways, but it can usually be traced back to stolen patient information or records – a consequence of healthcare data breaches. There’s a reason why medical identity theft cases are so common: hackers are focusing more on healthcare data breaches because stealing and selling patient information is quite lucrative.

After a hospital suffers a data breach, the hacker(s) then tries to sell the stolen patient information on the black market. Unfortunately, there are many buyers available for many reasons, and they are also willing to pay high prices – up to $1000 per record!

After buying the stolen patient data, the fraudster assumes the identity of the patient. This can happen within healthcare facilities as well as during telehealth sessions (which are surging in popularity right now).

The majority of hospitals have no effective patient identifier and therefore they fail to red flag the individual, leading to medical identity theft. The scammer then illegally uses the victim’s credentials to obtain prescription drugs, medical equipment, and healthcare services, charging the victim for the services. Not only that, but since the fraudster uses the medical record, their information will be recorded within the EHR (Electronic Health Record) and can lead to patient safety issues down the line.

While that was a simple example, many complex medical identity theft cases are occurring almost daily.

Is medical identity theft common?

The numbers don’t lie –more patient records were breached in 2019 compared to the prior three years combined! Moreover, 9.7 million patient records were affected by data breaches this September. There’s no doubt that the majority of these patient records will be used for medical identity theft, as experts are also predicting a sharp increase in the near future.

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Hospitals must ensure that they are preventing medical identity theft cases to guarantee patient safety and reduce associated litigation costs. Let’s take a look at some strategies that can help prevent medical identity theft and all of its consequences.

4 strategies hospitals can use to prevent medical identity theft cases

Follow the rules and regulations

First and foremost, the healthcare facility must ensure that they are properly following the rules. For instance, HIPAA mandates that there should be some technical, administrative, and physical safeguards present to protect patient information, known as PHI (Protected Health Information).

While this might seem like a straightforward strategy, a lot of healthcare providers fail to ensure HIPAA compliance. This not only leads to data breaches and medical identity theft down the line, but also incurs HIPAA penalties. HIPAA itself is a multi-layered and complex law that requires continuous effort to ensure compliance.

Fortunately, healthcare organizations can use HIPAA Ready, a robust HIPAA compliance software, to reduce the administrative burden. It streamlines HIPAA compliance, ensures training management, keeps all the HIPAA-related information in a centralized location, and also helps conduct internal audits. 

By ensuring HIPAA compliance, healthcare organizations can detect security gaps and address the vulnerabilities, mitigating data breaches and, in turn, medical identity theft.

Devise a policy to enhance security

As previously mentioned, HIPAA has several requirements and requires that networks and devices are secure at all times. To do that, hospitals must come up with and follow a strict device policy so that sensitive patient information is not leaked inadvertently. While a BYOD (bring your own device) practice might be more flexible, it will inevitably lead to data breaches and leakage of sensitive information.

Thus, the following tips will help enhance security:

  • Only allow official devices for storing sensitive information
  • Only allow logging into secure networks
  • Encourage usage of VPN
  • Ensure data encryption at all times
  • Keep logs of access requests to track any suspicious activity

Train employees regularly

Staff members such as registrars and nurses are the ones who regularly access patient data. Training them will provide them with the knowledge to avoid suspicious emails, as that is the primary weapon of hackers. Moreover, providing regular training – especially if it includes information on recent data breaches – can be beneficial. As previously mentioned, HIPAA Ready can help with training management.

Ensure accurate patient identification

Even if a data breach occurs, medical identity theft can be prevented if healthcare providers can red flag the fraudster during identity verification. That is exactly what RightPatient does.

 

RightPatient is the leading touchless patient identification platform used by several caregivers. It verifies identities by using patients’ photos. After scheduling appointments, patients need to provide a personal photo and a photo of their driver’s license. The platform matches them and verifies their identity remotely, red-flagging fraudsters. This system is ideal for telehealth sessions.

During inpatient visits, the scammer is red-flagged when the platform identifies that their face does not match the saved photo attached to the medical record, preventing medical identity theft in real-time.

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Hospitals Must Ensure Improved Patient Outcomes as COVID-19 Cases Spike

The moment everyone’s been dreading is almost upon us – another wave of COVID-19. This was inevitable, as most experts had stated that there would be a significant surge during this year’s fall season. According to experts, almost half of the US – including Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Texas, Utah, and Washington – is facing rising cases. The CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Director previously stated that the fall might well be one of the worst times the US healthcare system will face. That being said, as hospitals are steeling themselves for the upcoming surge, they need all the help they can get to ensure improved patient outcomes. Let’s explore the CDC’s most recent findings, what the future might hold, some problems faced by caregivers during the first wave, and how RightPatient can enhance patient safety and mitigate known issues.

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Some frightening statistics

According to the CDC, COVID-19 tests have been increasing across the US. As of now, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wyoming, Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Connecticut, and Iowa are the states experiencing the fastest spread of the novel virus, according to rt.live. Unfortunately, that’s not all – it’s just the beginning. 

On the 30th of October, the US hit a record high for daily COVID-19 cases with a staggering 99,155 cases. Moreover, the previous day had also held that record, as per The New York Times. 100,000 daily COVID-19 cases might soon become a reality. Public health officials also told The New York Times that positive rapid test results are being severely undercounted. To make things worse, it’s virtually impossible now to track the COVID-19 cases back to a single source.

With all that said, hospitals are preparing for the worst, and they need all the help they can get for improved patient outcomes – let’s take a look at what happened during the first wave.

Problems faced by healthcare providers

Tom Leary, HIMSS VP of Government Relations stated that incorrect patient data leads to a number of issues that hamper any public health response initiative. Delays in sharing COVID-19 test results, inaccurate information within patient records, and the lack of properly shared patient data were some consequences that could be traced back to an overlooked but critical problem of the US healthcare system: patient identification errors. Moreover, whenever a vaccine is created, its deployment will require immaculate patient identification in order to make it effective – which patients received the shot, which are still waiting for it, and what are the outcomes.

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Among other problems, patient misidentification was quite prevalent during the initial COVID-19 wave, and it’s natural to assume that it will happen again. Moreover, when COVID-19 spikes become overwhelming, regular patients will once again resort to using telehealth.

Thus, if caregivers want to ensure improved patient outcomes, they not only need to ensure positive patient identification but also ensure patient safety during both inpatient visits and remote sessions. Fortunately, as previously mentioned, that’s where RightPatient can help.

RightPatient ensures improved patient outcomes

RightPatient is a touchless biometric patient identification solution that has been helping healthcare providers for years. It locks the medical records of the patients using their photos upon enrollment.

During appointment scheduling, patients receive an SMS or email requiring them to provide a personal photo as well as a photo of their driver’s license. RightPatient automatically matches the photos and verifies their identities remotely, ensuring accurate patient data right from the start for improved patient outcomes.

In healthcare facilities, patients only need to look at the camera – the platform matches the photo saved during enrollment with the live image. After verification, it provides the appropriate medical record within seconds – enhancing patient safety and ensuring infection prevention. 

RightPatient protects patient data integrity, prevents duplicate medical records, and enhances healthcare outcomes by identifying patients accurately across the care continuum. Be a responsible caregiver and protect patients now with RightPatient.

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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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Identify Patients Correctly to Reduce Significant Healthcare Costs

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the whole world off-balance, and even though the world is opening up in places, it is still continuing to affect lives on a daily basis. Amidst all the chaos, healthcare became one of the most important parts of the economies across the world, and the US is no exception. However, with the overwhelming number of coronavirus patients who needed the utmost care, hospitals had to reallocate all of their efforts towards the affected patients – leading to hard decisions for other services provided. This resulted in the past few months being full of furloughs, layoffs, and salary cuts due to huge financial instabilities. As the US healthcare system slowly continues to open up in phases and resume its normal practices, healthcare providers need to focus on reducing costs further. One of the most effective ways to do that is to identify patients correctly. 

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Why hospitals need to identify patients correctly

There are a lot of issues associated with the US healthcare system. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, hospitals had their fair share of problems. One of the more prominent ones was the lack of accurate patient identification.

Whenever a patient comes to the hospital, the EHR (electronic health record) user will ask for information such as name, DOB, address, etc., which will help them obtain the correct medical record from the system. This will prepare the patients to obtain healthcare services, expecting to leave with better health after the treatment. Thus, healthcare begins with the hospital identifying the accurate medical record of the patient. 

Even though it sounds quite easy and straightforward, that is not the case. Human errors, negligence, and inconsistencies can lead to issues within the EHR systems. Even the smallest of mistakes can lead to large problems, jeopardizing patient safety. The most common problems within the EHR systems are known as duplicate medical records and overlays. Other than that, even patients with common names and demographic characteristics can be mixed up by healthcare providers, leading to disastrous consequences.

Some examples 

Last November, Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital mixed up two patients, which led to a patient getting the wrong kidney transplant. Thankfully, the wrong patient was compatible with the kidney, so no serious harm was done. However, not every patient mix-up case is as lucky. The same is true for misidentifications caused by duplicate records and overlays. After the incident at Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, they started using four identifiers altogether. Practically, it will still be quite ineffective, as human errors are bound to happen. Moreover, if there are duplicate medical records or overlays in the EHR system, like the majority of healthcare providers, then even the four identifiers will not prove useful. The EHR user will simply get confused between the duplicates and overlays and may end up choosing the wrong record inadvertently.

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Finding the accurate medical record of a patient within an EHR system that has duplicates is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. Take the case of Harris Health System. After a thorough analysis, they found some interesting numbers. It houses around 3.4 million patient records, out of which 7.3% had the common case where two or more patients had the same first and last names. 2.2% had a common case where five or more patients shared the same first and last names. There were 2,488 patients named Maria Garcia, out of which 231 Maria Garcias had the same DOBs. It is more than likely that some of those 231 records of Maria Garcias are duplicates or overlays. This can easily confuse any given EHR users while identifying patients, and unless an effective way to identify patients is used, the problems will keep on compounding.

How big a problem is patient misidentification?

According to AHIMA, smaller hospitals can have around 5-10% of duplicate medical records. On the other hand, larger health systems can house up to 20% duplicate records within the EHR systems of their different hospitals. These duplicates can easily cost up to $40 million for any provider.

Patient misidentification also hampers patient safety. Whenever a patient is wrongly identified, he/she will be treated based on the wrong medical record, medical history, allergies, medication, lab test results, and so on. The bigger the complexity, the more danger the patient faces. There have even been cases where patient mix-ups have caused deaths. These seriously damage the goodwill of the healthcare providers. Not only that, but providers also face heavy financial repercussions in the form of denied claims, lawsuits, and poor revenue cycle management. Lack of proper patient identification leads to increased medical identity theft as well – all of which RightPatient can prevent.

Is it possible to identify patients correctly?

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Patient misidentifications have been around for years, and with them, talks of an effective patient identifier have been around as well. While many healthcare leaders have been clamoring to get the archaic ban on state-funded UPI (unique patient identifier) lifted for years, it has not led to fruition yet. Last year, while the House of Representatives supported abolishing the ban, the Senate did not agree, leading to more misidentification cases, increased medical identity theft, and avoidable deaths.

However, healthcare leaders have taken it upon themselves to identify patients correctly. Many are using different platforms to identify patients accurately – fingerprint scanning, palm-vein scanning, and so on. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, all of these will be considered dangerous as they require patients to touch the device every time they come in for healthcare services. Everyone now knows how big of a deal infection control issues are, and patients will be extremely hesitant to touch any such device in the foreseeable future. Moreover, maintaining such devices is quite taxing – cleaning it after a patient uses it is itself a nightmare. 

Progressive leaders have opted for a futureproof solution – RightPatient. It is a touchless biometric patient identification platform that locks the medical records of the patients with their photos. After registration, all the patient needs to do is look at the camera and RightPatient matches their photos and accurately retrieves their medical records within seconds. It is not only easy to use but is also hygienic, as it requires no physical contact nor cleaning after every use, making it the only sensible choice as hospitals are opening up. Leading providers like Terrebonne General Medical Center, University Health Care System, and several others are using RightPatient to protect over 10 million patients – preventing duplicate record creation, preventing medical identity theft, reducing denied claims, and minimizing losses. Are you cutting down these costs effectively, since it is of utmost importance now?