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It’s Time to Improve the Patient Experience as In-Person Medical Visits Are Back

Now that lockdown is easing, in-person visits to medical facilities for non-urgent reasons can resume. Masks are being removed, people can come into closer contact than they could previously, and the routines of everyday life are returning. This is where hospitals can put into practice new ways of working which were adopted because of the pandemic and improve the patient experience.

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RightPatient improves the patient experience

More virtual appointments to prevent waiting times and improve punctuality for those patients who do need to be seen in person. Telephone triaging so that the patient is routed to the correct specialist faster. Individual consultations rather than groups which may encourage patients to be more open about their ailment, or group sessions held remotely so patients who work better with a support network can still have that feeling of accountability. All of these, when used appropriately for the individual patient, can improve the patient experience, reduce patient safety incidents, and improve healthcare outcomes.

Virtual consultations may not be for everyone

Of course, a touchless biometric patient identification platform such as RightPatient can improve quality and safety in healthcare where it is used. As hospitals and other healthcare locations move towards dealing with higher numbers of routine patients again, anything which can simplify the process should be welcome. There is a significant backlog of routine procedures which need to be undertaken having been canceled in favor of treating COVID infected patients, so all the staff members are likely to be busy for some time to come. Some workers were furloughed, other facilities had departments closed and remaining staff diverted to caring for acutely ill patients. Now, they need to return to their more usual work, while picking up the pieces of disrupted patient treatment pathways and working to improve the patient experience.

Naturally, this had a knock-on effect on medical income, with the loss to hospitals estimated to be somewhere between $320 billion to $325 billion. Now that people are receiving vaccines at speed and the rate of infection is slowing, medical facilities can begin to work on regaining some of that lost income and treating those patients who may have chronic conditions or have developed one after overcoming COVID.

Normal, but not normal

Just because everything is opening up again doesn’t mean that everyone shouldn’t be alert to the potential for new variants of the virus. Like ‘flu and colds, the COVID virus mutates, and there is always the risk that the next outbreak could be just as virulent. Keeping social distancing, minimizing queuing, and ensuring adequate ventilation are practical ways to reduce risk to staff and patients. However, technology has a part to play too.

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RightPatient has been improving the patient experience for several hospitals

Remote consultations save time, effort, the patient’s money, and improve the patient experience

Telehealth, the use of virtual or remote appointments rather than in-person consultations, has become popular for first consultations, initial triaging, counseling, and any discussion where actual hands-on physical examination is not required. For some people, it may be mentally less stressful to undertake healthcare appointments in this fashion. For others, it may be simpler and quicker, removing the need for time off work or lengthy journeys. Using telehealth the professional can easily work out which patients to call in for an in-person examination and who simply needs a new prescription or a referral to further care. Telehealth can take the form of a telephone call or video consultation, so most patients should be able to start their treatment pathway virtually. The reduced numbers of patients attending the facility will lower the likelihood of infection and reduce risk to staff and those patients who are clinically more vulnerable to the virus.

The public’s awareness of and engagement with healthcare staff has increased due to the pandemic. More people have been coming into contact with a wide variety of medical professionals as a result of the events of the last year. These people are not just those infected with the virus, they are members of the public who have struggled with loneliness and isolation, mental health issues, grief and loss, as well as those whose domestic arrangements were not suited to extended shelter-in-place requirements.

For many of these people, a remote solution is easier than an in-person visit. Actually leaving the house may be impossible for some, depending on their circumstances. It may be safer for them to remain at home, to have their medication delivered to them, and not to put their long-term health at risk by attending hospital in person. Hospital-acquired infections are a big risk to immunocompromised patients, and after a year of keeping themselves safe, they may be reticent about venturing out too far.

Touchless biometric patient identification solutions such as RightPatient can help healthcare providers ensure that they are treating accurate patients. Because RightPatient is biometric, patient identification is visually by camera rather than confirming answers to questions – it helps improve the patient experience during both virtual and in-person visits.

RightPatient can help healthcare providers treat their patients with less disruption and lower risk to the patients. The providers are still paid for their time and expertise, but the patient avoids an in-person visit unless an examination or procedure is indicated. That’s more convenient all around.

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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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Prevent “Professional Patients” in Clinical Trials with an Effective Patient Identifier

COVID-19 has changed reality as we know it since it was first detected. Everything and everyone has been affected, and now, it has reached every continent in the world. But we are hearing all around us that there is light at the end of this very long and dark tunnel. Fortunately, after months of struggle and research, several vaccines have been approved for emergency use. Researchers have worked tirelessly to come up with these vaccines, but there are several factors that could have jeopardized the vaccines – one of these is professional patients that participate in clinical trials. Let’s take a look at what professional patients actually are, how they hamper the integrity of clinical trials, and how an effective patient identifier can help prevent them.

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Clinical trials are more crucial than ever

Clinical trials occur on a regular basis and they are an integral part of healthcare. They lead to new drugs, treatment, and medical devices that reduce recovery times, improve healthcare outcomes, and treat complex or deadly diseases. However, as of now, everyone’s focus is on creating vaccines for COVID-19, which is why clinical trials have been in the spotlight for most of the year.

Clinical trials are quite lengthy and can be risky, but offer the reward of helping scientists arrive at key breakthroughs in healthcare. However, one of the trickiest parts is to recruit patients that fit the requirements of the trial. The volunteers are compensated handsomely and receive treatment for the conditions, but only after thorough background checks are conducted to identify any discrepancies.

That being said, factors such as the existence of “professional patients” can significantly hamper the efficacy and integrity of clinical trials. They can jeopardize years of research, cause millions in losses, and cause promising drugs to remain unapproved. Since there is no effective patient identifier used in clinical trials, professional patients mostly get away with hampering the trials. But what exactly are professional patients, and what are their motivations? 

Professional patients in a nutshell

Professional patients are those individuals that participate in clinical trials quite frequently, and many of them even participate in multiple trials at once. Yes, there are many types of professional patients. However, all of them create data quality issues and inconsistent results and are a hazard to sponsors, CROs (clinical research organizations), and drug companies.

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The first type of professional patients is simply those who have the required medical condition(s) and participate in clinical trials for financial gains. They usually cannot afford treatment for their medical conditions, and thus sign up at multiple facilities, either one at a time or simultaneously. Since they get exposed to multiple untested drugs and receive multiple doses of said drugs, they severely impact the data quality, their own health, and might cause promising drugs to not leave even the initial testing phases.

The other type of professional patients is those who have the required condition(s) but are not in it for the financial benefits. Instead, they falsify information down the line for something far more dangerous. These patients fake results not because they want the treatments; they want regular access to the drugs. These patients are common in treatments regarding addictions. 

The final type of professional patients is those who falsify information. They don’t have the medical condition(s) required by the trial but want to be a part of it. Not only do they falsify information during enrollment, but they can also give false information during the trial itself, which is extremely dangerous! It leads the researchers to make decisions based on incorrect information and can cause the trial to shut down. 

The lack of an effective patient identifier costs millions

Drug companies, sponsors, and CROs pour an enormous amount of time, money, and resources into clinical trials. Unfortunately, all of these are rendered useless by professional patients, and the unreliable data created by these individuals can cost millions. However, the best way to detect and prevent such cases in clinical trials is by using an effective, experienced, and well-reputed patient identifier.

An effective patient identifier ensures the integrity of clinical trials

RightPatient is the leading biometric patient identification platform trusted by several healthcare providers. Used by over 80 hospitals and thousands of clinics, RightPatient is the perfect solution to prevent professional patients in clinical trials.

Patients are assigned a single and unique biometric identity during registration, and they can be identified using mobile devices as well. If professional patients come in, the system can simply red flag them, if registered, and prevent them from participating in the trial, ensuring data integrity in clinical trials. 

Use RightPatient and avoid millions in losses, improve the efficacy of clinical trials, and optimize operations – contact us now to learn how we can help.

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Improving Remote Patient Outcomes by Addressing 5 Elements

The pandemic has been an unprecedented event that has taken much away from us since it started. However, hospitals in the affected countries felt its heat the most, and arguably the worst affected one is the US healthcare system. COVID-19 forced hospitals to divert regular patients to telehealth, leading to the explosive growth that it very much needed. Since telehealth is here to stay, more and more caregivers are adopting it and allocating resources for their online patients. While doing so, healthcare providers need to ensure that patient outcomes are optimal and immaculate.

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Let’s take a look at five elements healthcare providers need to consider and address to improve the patient outcomes of their remote patients.

5 addressable elements that can improve online patient outcomes

Catering to patients’ expectations

While telehealth has been around for quite some time in the US healthcare system, healthcare providers and patients did not pay much attention to it. Experts kept arguing about its merits and drawbacks, whereas patients were reluctant to try it. 

Telehealth achieved mainstream popularity only after the pandemic hit the US, and after almost a year, both patients and caregivers still might need some adjustments. For starters, caregivers need to identify patients’ expectations and work on addressing them.

A seamless check-in process and reduced wait times are good starting points, as these are some common requests. Moreover, if there are any temporary issues with the service, patients need to be notified immediately to avoid dissatisfaction. Conducting small and engaging surveys is another good strategy to determine what patients expect during the virtual sessions.

Training telehealth staff members

One of the best ways to improve online healthcare outcomes is by ensuring that patients have the best possible experience, and that can be done only if the telehealth team works effectively.

As already mentioned, telehealth is quite new to virtually everyone, and providing training sessions to the telehealth teams is a must to ensure that they use this solution to its maximum potential.

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Not only can training help improve efficiency, but it can also help caregivers provide patients with a seamless, intuitive, and engaging experience, improving patient outcomes in the process.

Ensuring ample security

Patient safety and confidentiality are necessities that any and all healthcare providers must ensure, and virtual sessions are no different. Something that is often brought up in regard to telehealth is security – data breaches are at an all-time high. Experts have been predicting that there will be fraudulent cases during telehealth sessions, as hackers and fraudsters may try to disrupt the entire session.

Hospitals and health systems must ensure that ample safeguards are used to protect patient information, prevent data breaches, and identity medical theft. Caregivers must go the extra mile and ensure that patient outcomes are error-free, safe, and optimal. 

However, while data breaches have so far been inevitable, medical identity theft is not. It can be prevented, but more on that later.

Ensuring reliability

A solution is as good as its reliability, and the same goes for telehealth options. Healthcare providers have a variety of options – they can either choose from the vast number of third-party solutions, or they can develop their own in-house. Whichever option they choose, healthcare providers must ensure that the solution is reliable and doesn’t break down unexpectedly or under pressure. If it fails, it can result in detrimental patient outcomes. For instance, equipment or technology breaking down in the middle of a telehealth session can be potentially dangerous for the patients, especially those who need urgent care.

While choosing third-party telehealth solutions, reading reviews can be quite helpful to determine their reliability. Also, pilot testing them provides a first-hand experience as to how reliable they are in real-time.

Ensure accurate patient identification for improved patient outcomes

Patient identification errors have been a prevalent but overlooked issue within the US healthcare system, and while many caregivers are still struggling with it during the pandemic, it will very likely be an issue during telehealth sessions as well. Imagine this: if the patient is misidentified right from the start and the wrong EHR (Electronic Health Record) is used, then the entire process will be full of errors. Moreover, as previously mentioned, medical identity theft during telehealth services is a growing concern. However, all of this can be mitigated with RightPatient.

RightPatient is a touchless biometric patient identification platform that is used by responsible caregivers to accurately identify their patients. It locks patients’ medical records with their photos and their biometric data during registration. Moreover, it is versatile enough to be used at any touchpoint across the healthcare facility, making it ideal for virtual sessions like telehealth and telemedicine. 

Patients receive an SMS or email after scheduling their appointments, after which they have to provide a personal photo and a photo of their driver’s license. RightPatient automatically compares the photos for a match, ensuring correct patient identification. 

Within healthcare facilities, the patient only needs to look at the camera – RightPatient performs a biometric search and provides the correct medical record after finding a positive match.

Not only does RightPatient prevent medical record mix-ups, but it also red-flags fraudsters, preventing medical identity theft even after a data breach and improving patient outcomes in the process.

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Patient Identifying Information Used Determines Patient Safety Within Hospitals

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US, its healthcare system was plagued by a multitude of issues. Increasing costs, the lack of price transparency, medical identity theft, healthcare data breaches, duplicate medical records, and the lack of interoperability are just some of the many problems surrounding healthcare. While these are persistent issues, many of them took a backseat when COVID-19 struck the US – except for patient misidentification. During the pandemic, healthcare providers profoundly felt the lack of an effective patient identifier. It led to patient safety issues, result mix-ups, patient misinformation, and so on. Let’s explore what healthcare experts are doing, why a national patient identifier might not be enough on its own, and how patient identifying information used by a healthcare provider heavily influences patient safety.

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The current state of patient identification

Patient identification has been a mess within the US healthcare system due to a number of factors. However, the biggest reason is that there is no standardized patient identifier that can be used to accurately identify patients’ medical records. As a result, many healthcare providers are still using the archaic process of finding electronic health records manually. Even though EHR systems provide search functionalities, issues such as common names and demographic characteristics as well as duplicate medical records make it harder to identify the accurate medical record. Thus, using names as patient identifying information is inefficient, dangerous, and, in high-stress environments such as registration desks of hospitals, might lead to misidentifications.

As a result, even this year, coalitions were formed where healthcare leaders came together to demand a state-funded UPI (Universal Patient Identifier) and expressed why accurate patient identification is crucial to ensure desirable healthcare outcomes. Back in July, healthcare leaders across the industry were relieved when the House of Representatives finally voted to overturn the ban on the UPI. 

Its creation, though, depends on the Senate now; they must approve the policy change. While we are closer to a national patient identifier than we’ve been in years, the Senate didn’t approve of abolishing the ban last year, citing privacy concerns. 

Why is patient identification so crucial?

Let’s take it from an expert, Tom Leary, HIMSS VP of Government Relations. During a session organized by the ONC (Office of the National Coordinator), Mr. Leary stated that incorrect patient data hampers public health response initiatives, such as those during the pandemic. As a result of patient identification errors, improper data sharing, delayed test results, and inaccuracies in medical records were seen during the crisis. Also, whenever the vaccine for COVID-19 is created, accurate patient identification is a must to deploy large-scale immunizations. While these were just some of the anomalies observed during the pandemic, patient identification errors have been rampant for years.

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Hospitals using ineffective patient identifying information to identify proper medical records have been facing issues such as denied claims, patient safety issues, duplicate record creation, overlays, and poor care coordination across their facilities. With all that said, along with years of medical record errors, duplicates, and so on, will the UPI be enough on its own to eliminate all the existing issues?

Choosing the right patient identifying information won’t be enough for the UPI

Short answer: the UPI won’t be enough in the near future. First, creating a UPI will be quite expensive and time-consuming. In terms of implementation, it will take years to cover the entire population. Also, its efficacy will entirely rely on the patient identifying information used. For instance, many healthcare providers already use Social Security numbers, and they’ve proven to be ineffective identifiers. These numbers can be easily lost, stolen, or even forgotten by the patients, making them unreliable identifiers.

Thus, the only way to make the UPI a success is to couple it with an existing and robust patient identification platform, one that has experience ensuring positive patient identification. That’s where RightPatient comes in.

RightPatient uses the most practical patient identifying information

Many healthcare providers are using RightPatient as their patient identification platform, and they chose it for a number of reasons. One factor that sets RightPatient apart is it uses the one feature that cannot be stolen, forgotten, or misplaced as patient identifying information – patients’ faces.

After successfully scheduling an appointment, the patient receives an SMS or email requiring a personal photo as well as a photo of their driver’s license. RightPatient matches the photos to ensure remote patient authentication.

Within healthcare facilities, registered patients only need to look at the camera – the platform matches the photos and ensures accurate and touchless patient identification. This helps to provide a hygienic environment for both patients and registrars, eliminating infection control issues and enhancing patient safety.

RightPatient has years of experience ensuring accurate patient identification – try us now to learn how we can help you reduce denied claims, prevent duplicate records, improve healthcare outcomes, and more.

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Hospitals Are Facing Lower Reimbursements – Reduce Losses by Preventing Wrong Patient Identification

The COVID-19 pandemic has – and still is – left an unprecedented impact on our lives, and it’s safe to assume that it will leave a mark for years, if not decades. While the novel virus has claimed over 1 million lives around the world, over 219,000 of them were Americans. The US healthcare system is also on the receiving end – it is expected to face unprecedented losses of around $323 billion this year. Many healthcare providers have been forced to shut their doors permanently, furlough or lay off employees, or introduce pay cuts to deal with the financial blows. To make matters worse, healthcare providers are receiving small amounts of reimbursements for treating uninsured COVID-19 patients. Let’s take a look at the scenario, the numbers associated with the issue, and how providers can mitigate these losses by preventing wrong patient identification.

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COVID-19 has created an unprecedented financial strain for hospitals

COVID-19 has been spreading like wildfire, impacting everything and everyone it comes in contact with. After it hit the US, the healthcare system braced for impact the best way it could; hospitals canceled elective procedures and reassigned all resources to handle the surge of incoming COVID-19 patients. Naturally, hospitals and health systems are still suffering from the financial strain caused by COVID-19 as well as the cancellation of elective procedures.

Providers would get reimbursed for treating uninsured COVID-19 patients 

Back in April, the Trump administration’s coronavirus treatment reimbursement program was announced. Healthcare providers who treated uninsured COVID-19 patients would be reimbursed using the money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This has been done so that caregivers don’t incur any more losses as well as to avoid uninsured patients facing shocking bills related to COVID-19. As a result, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has reimbursed $881 million to around 8,000 providers to date.

However, it was estimated previously that the reimbursement for treating uninsured COVID-19 patients would range from $13.9 billion to $41.8 billion. As hospitals are facing losses of around $323 billion this year, they need higher reimbursements if they are to survive in the post-pandemic world. 

Why is this happening? 

One of the reasons pointed out by the Kaiser Family Foundation is the eligibility for receiving reimbursements – hospitals treating uninsured patients who have a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 will be receiving reimbursements. This means that even though healthcare providers might treat uninsured patients, if their primary diagnosis isn’t COVID-19, the caregivers won’t be eligible for reimbursements.

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Another issue with the program is that it doesn’t guarantee that all caregivers treating uninsured COVID-19 patients will receive the reimbursements – it depends on the availability of funding.

Hospitals must cut costs by mitigating wrong patient identification

The biggest challenge hospitals are facing now is to survive the financial strain. As previously mentioned, many have already closed their doors. Others are utilizing alternative cost-cutting methods such as furloughing or laying off employees, introducing reduced salaries, or restructuring their operations.

However, healthcare providers have a long list of problems that stem from wrong patient identification, and if they can eliminate it, they can significantly reduce costs and mitigate losses – enough to survive the financial crisis. Moreover, patient identification errors have been impacting healthcare outcomes even during the pandemic – for instance, test results went to the wrong patients, treatment was delayed due to incorrect patient data, and so on. All of these issues can be eliminated with RightPatient.

RightPatient effectively prevents wrong patient identification

Wrong patient identification has been a significant problem for years. While many healthcare providers wisely chose RightPatient before the pandemic (thanks to its touchless nature) others are facing issues with their touch-based solutions. Many have even reported a significant drop in utilization of the touch-based patient identification solutions as patients are extremely reluctant to use them due to concerns regarding infections. While infection control used to be a concern for hospitals only, since the pandemic, patients are well aware of the consequences.

Thankfully, patients and caregivers don’t have to worry about this with RightPatient, the industry’s leading patient identification platform. It uses a characteristic that others cannot replicate or steal: patients’ faces. Using patients’ photos and a photo of their driver’s license or other identification cards after scheduling an appointment, RightPatient automatically matches the photos to ensure accurate patient identification right from the start and across the care continuum. 

Leading providers have deployed RightPatient across their facilities and are reducing denied claims, preventing duplicate medical records, and enhancing patient safety – ultimately eliminating redundant costs and boosting their bottom line in the process. After the pandemic, every hospital needs to reduce such costs to survive – use RightPatient to help you do so.

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A Closer Look at Duplicate Medical Records and How They Can Be Prevented

There are a lot of issues with the U.S. healthcare system, but a few of them can be traced back to medical record errors – duplicate medical records and overlays, to be precise. For instance, duplicate records and overlays lead to patient safety issues, reduced healthcare outcomes, patient misidentification, billing and coding errors, denied claims, and revenue cycle management issues. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, duplicates have been leading to poor patient identification – hampering the response rate and patient outcomes. Let’s take a closer look at how and why duplicates are created, their effects on patients and caregivers, and how they can be prevented with RightPatient.

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Duplicate medical records and overlays

With the technological advancements available today and being arguably the world’s most advanced country, one might ask why are duplicate records a thing in the U.S. healthcare system? Well, there can be many explanations for this – errors made during registration, already existing duplicate records, the lack of a proper patient identification system, pressure at the frontend, and so on.

Duplicate medical records and overlays occur especially within the premises of busy healthcare providers – when under a tremendous amount of pressure, registration employees are more likely to make mistakes. While hiring more staff to reduce the pressure might work, without an effective patient identification platform, these errors will inevitably continue to be created. Before diving into how they are created, let’s distinguish between duplicate records and overlays.

Duplicate records

It’s self-explanatory from the name itself. Duplicate records refer to more than one medical record assigned to a single patient – this itself implies the complications such records bring. For instance, it means that there will be redundant records within the EHR system, leading to patient data integrity issues. Moreover, each duplicate record will have different, incomplete, obsolete, or inconsistent information – leading to data corruption. Caregivers have to make important decisions based on the information within medical records (lab test results, vitals, medications, allergies), and when they are using wrong or fragmented information, quality of care takes a hit. Overall, patient safety is compromised – more on that later.

Overlays

Overlays are in a league of their own. The main difference between overlays and duplicates is that overlays are created when one patient’s medical record or its information is entered into an entirely different patient’s record – merging the information together. While they only occur rarely, they can be expensive and extremely dangerous for both patients and caregivers according to HIM Briefings as well as our own experience. Not only do overlays corrupt patient data, but they also lead to patient safety issues, repeated lab test results, wrong treatment, and so on.

Now that we’ve seen what duplicate records and overlays are, let’s see how they get created.

How are duplicate medical records and overlays created?

These medical record errors are usually made during the patients’ and caregivers’ first point of contact – registration. These are typically busy areas for any given hospital – naturally, the employees have a short amount of time and a huge amount of work. Add to that the lack of an effective patient identifier, patients sharing the same information (names, DOBs, etc.), and a sea of medical records, and you have an environment that is likely to result in duplicate records and overlays.

Most of these issues occur because the registrars have no concrete way to identify patients accurately. Moreover, common names, nicknames, name changes, entering incorrect data, and misspelling patient names are some factors that will hinder the attempts to find accurate records. For instance, there might be quite a few “Will Smiths” in the EHR system. Also, “William Smith” might have his record saved under “Will Smith”, but he mentions himself as the former in front of the registrar. Moreover, many patients have their names changed after marriages or separations. All in all, there are a lot of factors in play here.

The impact of medical record errors

There are many consequences of having duplicate records and overlays in EHR systems for both patients and caregivers.

AHIMA has stated that 20% of the medical records in healthcare systems with multiple facilities are duplicates, and they can cost up to $40 million for any healthcare provider. Moreover, these lead to wrong treatment, undesirable patient outcomes, and thus, lower ratings and loss of goodwill for hospitals. Other consequences faced by hospitals are denied claims and poor revenue cycle optimization, hitting their bottom lines, and reducing their already razor-thin margins.

Patient safety takes a huge hit – when a patient gets treated with a fragmented or an entirely different medical record, there are so many things that could go wrong! Wrong medications, delays in treatment, repeated lab tests, and even death are the consequences for patients. All of these issues are avoidable if the caregivers use an effective patient identifier to prevent duplicate medical records and overlays. This is where RightPatient comes in.

RightPatient prevents duplicate medical records and more

For years, RightPatient, with its touchless biometric patient identification platform, has been preventing medical record errors such as duplicates and overlays. Not only that, but it also ensures accurate patient identification using the one factor that doesn’t change and cannot be stolen or transferred – the patients’ faces. 

After scheduling an appointment successfully, patients are sent an SMS or email and are asked to provide their selfies and a photo of their driver’s license. The platform matches the photos and ensures that the patients are accurately identified right from the start. Whenever patients visit the hospital, those enrolled under RightPatient only need to look at the camera – the platform identifies them with the saved photo, retrieving the appropriate medical records, preventing duplicates in the process.

Prevent duplicates and enhance patient safety now with RightPatient.

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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 in clinical trials 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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How Many Patient Identifiers Should be Used to Ensure Patient Safety?

The US healthcare system has always been plagued by a number of issues. One very common but often overlooked issue is that of patient identification errors. Misidentification cases continue to be quite prevalent while there continues to be a ban on the creation of a state-funded Universal Patient Identifier (UPI). While debate continues around the risks and rewards involved with a UPI, one should also be asking about its efficacy. How many patient identifiers should be used to prevent patient safety issues? Will a UPI be enough to solve this colossal challenge?

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UPI’s history in a nutshell

Since the idea for a unique patient identifier was formed, it’s seen constant criticism and opposition, resulting in a ban that’s lasted for around two decades. Last year, healthcare organizations came pretty close to finally having the ban removed when the US House of Representatives voted to repeal the ban. However, the ban is still in effect with the legislation failing to gain approval in the Senate.

As for the future of the UPI, let’s look at its past. It has not been funded for around two decades due to issues like privacy concerns and growing data breach incidents that could seriously jeopardize patient safety and privacy. Thus, chances are high that the future may not be kind to the creation of a state-funded UPI.

Lack of effective patient identification is felt throughout healthcare

The absence of reliable patient identification is widely felt throughout hospitals and health systems. Patient safety issues and patient data integrity failures are just some of the many issues associated with patient misidentification. However, a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic clearly highlighted the importance of proper patient identification, impeding the ability of caregivers to provide healthcare services quickly and effectively without access to holistic patient information. Since the pandemic started, healthcare staff on the frontlines have been learning that the hard way.

Many experts are even thinking that this might be the time the UPI will finally be realized. But will it be enough? How many patient identifiers should be used to make sure it’s safe for patients and effective for providers? Fortunately, our Co-Founder, Michael Trader, has a comprehensive answer.

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How many patient identifiers should be used?

Mr. Trader has stated that it’s crucial to find balance regarding a UPI and it’s equally important to establish an infrastructure that can house the UPI securely – only identifying patients accurately is not enough. Furthermore, the creation of duplicate medical records and overlays need to be prevented – they are some of the many issues that significantly hinder patient matching.

Mr. Trader adds that while the UPI will have benefits such as better interoperability as providers can share patient data more reliably, it will not mitigate issues such as duplicates, overlays, and medical identity theft. How many patient identifiers should be used, then?

Mr. Trader stated that instead of relying solely on the UPI, responsible providers will pair it with another identification system, and preferably one that is tried and tested. Linking the UPI to a photo-based biometric patient identification platform comes to mind. This touchless solution can be scaled across all encounter touch points, even enabling patients to utilize their own smartphones, making it the ideal solution in our post-pandemic world. With such a combination, patient misidentifications can be eliminated.

For years, patient misidentification has been a persistent problem for patients and caregivers alike. Providers need to eliminate misidentification as soon as possible, with or without the UPI. After all, it’s a single mistake that can cause severe consequences for both providers and patients. Fortunately, RightPatient can help providers avoid such unwanted cases. 

With its photo-based patient identification platform, RightPatient has been identifying patients accurately for years. Leading and responsible providers have chosen RightPatient instead of waiting for the UPI – they know the effects of patient identification errors better than anyone else. Thus, if the UPI is created, responsible leaders will be coupling it with the leading patient identification platform, ensuring interoperability, accurate patient identification, and reliable patient data exchanges.