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Improving Patient Safety Depends on Error-Free ADT E-Notifications

While COVID-19 has been ravaging almost the entire world, healthcare industries have been facing an unprecedented number of patients and challenges. Arguably, the US healthcare system has been hit the worst. Just look at the numbers – over 10 million cases with a record of 100,000 new cases for seven consecutive days. Unfortunately, things will get worse, as spikes are seen across the states and experts predict far more cases during the fall. Healthcare providers are facing huge challenges while they deliver care, while keeping patient and provider safety as a top priority. That being said, CMS (the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) has mandated that caregivers must support sending and receiving e-notifications during ADT (admission, discharge, and transfer) events, something that many believe will help with improving patient safety and quality of care. Let’s take a closer look at the rule, how it will enhance care coordination, and why it requires accurate patient identification.

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Interoperability has always been problematic

COVID-19 has already shown the importance of sharing patient data among caregivers. Most of the patients have multiple caregivers located at different sites, and for seamless care coordination and improved healthcare outcomes, their data needs to be shared accurately and in real-time with the appropriate parties. That’s exactly what CMS aims to achieve: improved interoperability between caregivers with patients in common.

Interoperability has been a massive issue within the healthcare space as caregivers fail to share patient data accurately, mostly because of patient identification issues – more on that later. In order to bolster interoperability, enhance coordinated care, and improve patient outcomes, CMS announced a new CoP (Condition of Participation) surrounding e-notifications as a part of their Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule.

The new Condition of Participation (CoP) in a nutshell

This CoP requires applicable healthcare providers (critical access, psychiatric, and regular hospitals) that use digital medical records to share and receive alerts that are triggered in real-time due to ADT events – both inpatient and ED (emergency department) events. Applicable parties are PCPs (primary care physicians), post-acute care providers, and primary care practitioners, among others. The notifications should at the least include patient information, such as the patient’s name, the treating practitioner’s name, as well as the sending institution’s name. Caregivers can share more information if they deem it necessary.

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The applicable healthcare providers need to support e-notifications by May 1, 2021. This means they have around half a year to comply with the requirements.

Why it is critical for improving patient safety

By sharing critical patient information with other parties across the care continuum, all of them can make informed decisions using the most recent data, leading to seamless care coordination and better healthcare outcomes – improving patient safety along the way.

Healthcare in the US has become multifaceted and complex – gone are the days when a patient would go to a single caregiver for receiving care. Now, a single patient can have multiple doctors that are located at different healthcare facilities. E-notifications enable such caregivers to quickly send and receive information that can lead to faster outcomes and better decision-making. When you compare it to previous methods – fax, phone calls, etc. – you will understand how this is going to change patient data sharing and interoperability. In time-sensitive cases, for instance, these real-time alerts will save lives.

How healthcare providers are addressing this CoP

Caregivers are brainstorming to identify the best way to address this CoP. Many will develop e-notifications solutions in-house, whereas others will use third-party solutions. While healthcare providers do that, they might overlook a crucial aspect that will make or break their e-notifications solution: patient identification.

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To improve care coordination and interoperability efforts, e-notifications won’t be effective on their own – let’s see how.

Improving patient safety requires accurate patient identification

One serious but overlooked issue faced by healthcare providers is patient identification errors. Even during the pandemic, patient identification errors have been brought up a number of times, as they lead to delayed care, repeated lab tests, and can even hamper patient safety. But how exactly is this related to e-notifications? 

It’s quite simple – imagine a hospital that does not utilize an effective patient identity verification solution. It is bound to face a number of issues, such as duplicate medical records, overlays, medical record mix-ups, and so on. Now, imagine that a patient is misidentified during registration; the entire caregiving process will be dangerous and inaccurate as it will use the wrong medical record. This will also hamper interoperability – false alerts will be sent out, raising credibility concerns. It will wreak havoc in the facilities that are associated with the wrong medical record. Thus, accurate patient identification is crucial for improving patient safety as well as making e-notifications work. Fortunately, RightPatient can help with that.

RightPatient has been improving patient safety

Used by several caregivers, RightPatient is the leading biometric patient identification platform for a number of reasons. First, it ensures hygiene as it is a touchless solution, eliminating risks of hospital-acquired infections. Second, it has a vast amount of experience over the years, making it a trusted name within the healthcare space.

By using patients’ photos, RightPatient locks the medical records. Patients are asked for a personal photo and a driver’s license after they schedule appointments. The platform matches the photos to verify the identities remotely.

When patients arrive at the hospitals, all they need to do is look at the camera – the platform identifies them using the saved photo and provides the appropriate medical record within seconds. 

Use RightPatient now and eliminate misidentification, ensuring that you send out proper alerts to the correct caregivers, enhancing patient safety and care coordination in the process.

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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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How to Improve Patient Safety and Add Millions to Hospitals’ Bottom Lines

The US healthcare system has been having a tough time for many years due to several issues, but the pandemic arguably tops all of them. It has damaged everything, leading to the cancellation of regular healthcare services in order to aid COVID-19 patients. While COVID-19 cases had decreased over time, cases are rising across many states in the US. The American Hospital Association (AHA) also predicted that healthcare providers will face losses of at least $323 billion this year due to the novel virus. As caregivers are facing these challenges, as well as lower reimbursements, they can save significant costs and add millions to their bottom lines if they improve patient safety. Let’s take a closer look at the losses, what caused them in the first place, and how patient safety can be improved.

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What contributed to the losses?

In short, a variety of factors contributed to the unfathomable losses. However, the key factors were elective procedures being canceled or postponed, drastically lower patient volumes, and high costs due to the surge in demand for crucial materials such as PPE (personal protective equipment). All of these were necessary so that caregivers could treat COVID-19 patients.

The losses didn’t stop there, which forced many healthcare providers to resort to cost-cutting strategies. Furloughing, laying off employees, restructuring the organization, introducing pay cuts, and even shutting down departments or entire healthcare facilities were just some common strategies seen during the pandemic. Unfortunately, there’s more bad news.

Hospitals are receiving lower reimbursements for treating uninsured COVID-19 patients. It was estimated that the reimbursements might total from $13.9 billion to $41.8 billion. However, around $881 million has been provided at this point. Moreover, CMS will fine half of hospitals next year as these hospitals readmitted patients too frequently. From every angle, hospitals are facing the worst financial strain in decades. Thankfully, these losses can be mitigated significantly if healthcare providers improve patient safety within their facilities with RightPatient.

How can RightPatient improve patient safety?

Ensures a hygienic environment

One aspect that makes RightPatient different from other patient identifiers is that it is touchless. The platform uses the faces of patients to verify their identities. In healthcare facilities, all a patient needs to do is look at the camera – the platform matches the saved photo and the live one for verification, making it a hygienic and safe experience for everyone involved.

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Prevents medical identity theft

By identifying patients accurately across the care continuum, starting from appointment scheduling, RightPatient ensures that patients are who they claim to be and not some fraudster. After scheduling an appointment online, patients receive an SMS/email instructing them to provide a personal photo and a photo of their driver’s license – RightPatient does the rest. It red-flags any anomalies when it sees that someone else is assuming the patient’s identity, preventing medical identity theft in real-time.

When a scammer uses the victim’s medical record, it is contaminated with their data, rendering it dangerous, fragmented, and inconsistent. If such cases are undetected, they severely hamper patient safety and impact healthcare outcomes. Thankfully, RightPatient can prevent such cases and improve patient safety along the way.

Prevents duplicate medical records

Duplicate medical records are quite dangerous, as they lead to treatment based on incomplete and inaccurate medical data, creating incidents that hamper patient safety. RightPatient identifies patients right from the start, avoiding duplicates and overlays.

Protects patient data integrity

Patient data is useless and dangerous if it is corrupt, and such cases increase when patient misidentification is common. RightPatient eliminates patient misidentification and helps improve patient safety by using the most appropriate characteristic to identify them – their faces.

Reduces medical errors

Medical errors occur on a regular basis. In fact, a John Hopkins study claimed that each year, over 250,000 American patients lose their lives due to medical errors, whereas others claim the number to be above 440,000. This would make medical errors the third leading cause of death in the US, and as most of these errors stem from something as simple as patient identification issues, those deaths are preventable.

Imagine this – when a patient walks into the hospital, the registrar needs to identify their accurate medical record. However, if the wrong medical record is chosen, even if it is a duplicate medical record of the same patient, the treatment will be based on obsolete or incomplete information – even a single medication can severely hamper the patient’s outcome. RightPatient prevents these cases and eliminates preventable medical errors associated with misidentifications. 

RightPatient can improve patient safety and mitigate losses simultaneously

RightPatient does all of the above and more – it reduces denied claims, litigation costs, and eliminates the costs associated with preventable medical errors. Leading caregivers have already experienced how useful RightPatient is and reduced losses significantly. Use RightPatient now to be a responsible caregiver and enhance patient safety, all while boosting your bottom line.

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Hospital Readmission Prevention is a Must as CMS Fines Half of Hospitals

The US healthcare system is in an unfortunate state – it just can’t seem to catch a break. While it was already coping with a number of issues – such as medical identity theft, the lack of price transparency, interoperability issues, and healthcare data breaches, among others – COVID-19 hit it hard. As a result, healthcare providers across the US are facing huge losses. With increasing COVID-19 cases across the States and with experts predicting even more during the fall, healthcare providers received yet another blow. CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) will fine about half of hospitals due to readmissions of Medicare patients, although this is for the pre-pandemic period and therefore COVID-19 cannot be held accountable for the lower payments. Let’s take a look at the numbers, how this will affect the hospitals further, and how hospital readmission prevention can be achieved with a proper patient identity verification platform.

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CMS will lower payments

While it’s already been quite a harsh year for healthcare providers, it’s about to get worse. Many caregivers are resorting to cost-cutting strategies by laying off employees, furloughing them, or even shutting down; however, the lowered payments will only add to the unprecedented costs.

Some numbers surrounding the penalties

During the fiscal year 2021, CMS will fine 2,545 hospitals due to increased Medicare patient readmissions that occurred within 30 days. The penalties were based on patient data ranging from July 2016 through June 2019. A staggering 83% of the hospitals received penalties, and they will be facing payment cuts as high as 3% per Medicare case during 2021. 39 caregivers will face the maximum penalty next year, which is an improvement over this year, when the number of hospitals hit with the maximum penalty was 56. However, with the pandemic disrupting everything, hospitals will lose more than ever. As a result, hospital readmission prevention becomes a topmost priority.

Why is the program important?

This is the ninth year of the Hospital Readmissions Reductions Program, and it has been created to improve patient care quality while lowering overall costs. As previously mentioned, it takes into account the readmissions of Medicare patients that occur within 30 days. While CMS is considering a suspension of the penalty program due to COVID-19, the penalties are still in effect this year.

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Some exceptions

Congress has exempted 2,176 hospitals out of the 5,267 from penalties due to a number of reasons. The hospitals exempted are either:

  • Critical access hospitals,
  • The only inpatient facility in the area,
  • Hospitals specializing in long-term care, children, veterans, or psychiatric patients.

What the industry thinks about hospital readmission prevention

While many participants within the US healthcare system have voiced disapproval regarding the penalty program, others have said that, while not perfect, the Hospital Readmissions Reductions Program is useful – it pushes caregivers to find innovative solutions to provide better quality care. 

The penalties will further increase hospital losses

Moreover, as healthcare providers are already facing huge losses due to the pandemic, they need to ensure hospital readmission prevention if they want to survive in the long run. Several hospitals are heavily relying on CMS reimbursements, and if they can reduce readmissions, it might help them survive the pandemic’s financial strain. By improving patient safety and quality of care, hospitals can significantly lower readmissions. Fortunately, RightPatient can help with that.

RightPatient enhances hospital readmission prevention

RightPatient has been helping leading healthcare providers with its touchless patient identification platform for years. It ensures improved healthcare outcomes by eliminating one of the most overlooked problems within hospitals: patient misidentification.

Patient misidentification leads to duplicate medical records and overlays, jeopardizing patient safety. Moreover, it provides the wrong medical records to caregivers, resulting in negative healthcare outcomes. Naturally, these are the patients who are readmitted within hospitals frequently. So, how does RightPatient help?

It locks the medical records of the patients using their photos during registration. Patients receive an SMS/email after they schedule appointments, and they are required to provide a personal photo and a photo of their driver’s license. RightPatient compares the photos for a proper match, eliminating any chance of misidentifications. All of this is done without requiring the patients to touch any foreign objects, eliminating infection control issues – something that is crucial during and after the pandemic.

Reduce patient readmissions, improve healthcare outcomes, and ensure patient safety with RightPatient – contact us now to learn how we can help you.

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Patient Data Accuracy is More Crucial Than Ever for Value-Based Care

While the US healthcare system, as well as the entire world, is still facing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the former has several issues not directly associated with the novel virus. For instance, the lack of price transparency, increasing healthcare costs, healthcare data breaches, medical identity theft, the lack of interoperability, and the lack of effective patient identification in hospitals are just some of the many problems that plague healthcare providers. While we’ve already covered many of the aforementioned topics, today’s focus will be on value-based care, some upcoming adjustments, and why accurate patient data is crucial for it.

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Value-based care in a nutshell

Value-based care is a frequently discussed topic within the healthcare space – it’s supposed to transform healthcare for everyone. While healthcare costs have been ever-increasing and accompanied by all-too-often poor healthcare outcomes, value-based care is thought to be the game-changer. Instead of focusing on the fee-for-service model, value-based care focuses on paying hospitals and physicians based on the patients’ health outcomes.

Due to value-based care, patients will experience lower costs and better healthcare outcomes, healthcare providers will experience better patient satisfaction scores and improved efficiencies, and everyone involved in the model will experience reduced costs and better overall results.

Value-based care has been heavily focusing on:

  • reducing price and providing transparency regarding it,
  • enhancing care quality by providing a competitive environment for caregivers,
  • pushing for enhanced interoperability to improve coordinated care.

However, value-based care will be focusing on more areas as it seeks to improve healthcare as a whole. Let’s take a look at some of the recent updates.

Some current updates regarding value-based care

Medicaid will finally be integrated into value-based care, according to Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Medicaid directors across the States have been sent letters including ideas that will help incorporate value-based incentives within programs. Moreover, CMS wants all public and private entities to participate alongside Medicare and Medicaid.

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The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) was established to test alternative payment models. It created fifty-four models; however, only five of them demonstrated savings, and only three of them are applicable for national expansion. CMS is hard at work observing the data in order to mitigate these issues.

Being flexible regarding regulations might do the trick, as the CMS believes that the exemptions introduced during the pandemic might be offered within the models for more participants.

There are many other proposed changes as well as those already underway, along with what might be the future of value-based care. A more detailed explanation can be found here.

However, even when value-based care was introduced, one thing was certain – accurate patient data is crucial for it to work. Let’s take a look at why patient data will make or break CMS reimbursements that focus on such models.

Accurate patient data is required for value-based care

Since the focus of value-based care is better healthcare outcomes, providers need to ensure that the right patient is receiving the right treatment at the right time. However, if patient data is inaccurate, it will significantly degenerate healthcare outcomes. For instance, if a patient is misidentified during registration, that patient will be treated using someone else’s medical record – someone with different diagnoses, test reports, ailments, allergies, and so on. If one takes previous patient misidentifications into account, both the misidentified patient, as well as the record holder, have faced adverse health outcomes. Thus, patient data integrity must be maintained to ensure that the information is consistent, accurate, and useful. That’s where RightPatient can help.

RightPatient enhances patient data integrity

Right from the beginning, RightPatient ensures accurate patient data by eliminating patient misidentification, avoiding duplicate medical records, and preventing medical identity theft.

It is a touchless patient identification platform used by several caregivers such as Community Medical Centers, Grady Health, MediSys Health, and Catholic Health of Long Island. By using patients’ faces, RightPatient locks the medical records upon registration with their photos. While scheduling appointments, patients only need to provide a personal photo along with a photo of their driver’s license – the platform automatically verifies the photos to ensure a proper match.

Within healthcare facilities, patients only need to look at the camera – the platform verifies the identities to see if the patients are who they say they are, preventing patient misidentification, avoiding duplicates, and maintaining patient data integrity as well. All these lead to better healthcare outcomes, something which is crucial for value-based care.

Choose RightPatient now and enhance healthcare outcomes by ensuring patient safety across the care continuum.

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Preventing Wrong Patient Errors Can Mitigate Hospitals’ Losses During the Pandemic

The US healthcare system has been facing one of its worst periods in decades due to the pandemic. Not only does the US have the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, but because of this – as well as the cancellation of elective procedures, regular appointments, etc. – its healthcare system is also facing unprecedented financial strain. AHA has estimated that $323 billion will be lost this year – can you believe that? In order to cope with this financial strain, providers are having to lay off employees, close down facilities, introduce furloughing, and some are even shutting their doors permanently. But are these cost-cutting strategies enough, or should providers also look into improving other areas that can help mitigate losses, such as reducing wrong patient errors? Let’s explore some of the recent losses incurred by hospitals, how some of them are trying to cope with it, and how upgrading the patient identity verification process can significantly reduce costs.

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Consequences hospitals are facing due to the pandemic

M Health Fairview will lay off 900 and more

The health system stated that 16 of its 56 clinics in Minnesota and Wisconsin will be closed, it will shut the doors of its 90-bed Bethesda Rehabilitation Hospital, and will also reduce some of the services it offered at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Moreover, neurology and bariatrics, as well as other specialties, will be moved to other facilities, and it will also close the doors of St. Joseph’s ED at the end of 2020. All of this is being done to cope with the financial losses that the pandemic introduced – around $250 million – leading to the layoff of 900 employees.

Saint Luke’s Health System will close 2 hospitals

Missouri’s Saint Luke’s Health System has made the hard decision to close down two of its community hospitals at the end of this year. While it has been reported that it’s being done to streamline services, these hospitals have seen lower patient volumes – a direct result of the pandemic. They’ve also stated that the hospitals are being closed to help deal with the pandemic more efficiently. 

Wellforce laid off 232 employees

Wellforce, located in Massachusetts, laid off 232 employees due to the losses caused by the pandemic. Quite naturally, some of its facilities faced huge reductions in patient volume, leading to an operating loss of around $32 million. Prior to that, the health system had opted for furloughing over 700 employees and introduced pay cuts for others. It even subsequently culled many of the affected employees, ultimately laying off 232 of them.

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Why these techniques might not work

While healthcare providers are doing everything they can to offset the losses caused by the pandemic, it’s clear that strategies like pay cuts, furloughs, or laying off employees will not be enough, and may have undesirable consequences for the future.

For instance, when potential employees see that a hospital is laying off its employees, they’ll lose faith in it and apply at other workplaces. As a result, hospitals will lose out on talented individuals. Many are even laying off their topmost officials – it might be hard to find someone else to fill that position when the candidates see what happened to their predecessor!

Moreover, even after implementing such cost-cutting strategies, many are still having to resort to others as well – look at Wellforce, for instance. While these strategies might reduce costs, what about reducing costs by eliminating other financially significant issues, such as wrong-patient errors?

Preventing wrong patient errors can reduce more costs than you think

Patient identification errors have always been a huge issue within the US healthcare system. Especially during the pandemic, it is now causing more errors than ever – wrong patient data, mix-ups, and inaccurate healthcare outcomes are some of the unfortunate consequences.

Incorrectly identified patients lead to more duplicate records, preventable medical errors, litigation costs, denied claims, and more – all of these cause hospitals to lose a lot of money. Moreover, if caregivers don’t have an effective patient identifier in place medical identity theft cannot be detected in real-time, which leads to significant costs down the line. 

Looking to the future, healthcare providers will need to ensure CMS (Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services) compliance by supporting e-notifications by May of 2021. If the facilities are suffering from wrong-patient errors, the caregivers will lose out on CMS reimbursements in the future.

It’s quite clear that preventing patient identification errors is a feasible strategy to reduce costs, but how should caregivers do so?

RightPatient effectively prevents wrong patient errors

RightPatient has been the touchless patient identification platform of choice for several caregivers. By confirming patients’ identities using their photos, RightPatient ensures that all the issues associated with patient misidentification are eliminated. Even medical identity theft can be prevented – fraudsters are flagged when they face its verification process, reducing significant costs for providers and enhancing patient safety.

Contact us now to learn how we can help mitigate your losses and ensure accurate patient identification across the care continuum.

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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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Patient Safety and Communication are Critical as Patient Visits Return to Pre-pandemic Levels

COVID-19 has changed everything in unparalleled ways. Gone are the days when we could hang out casually with friends, be safe without PPE, and commute without the fear of catching the virus. It is quite natural that COVID-19 has impacted organizations and industries as well, and arguably, the US healthcare system is facing the worst consequences. The pandemic has affected every aspect of healthcare as we know it, and healthcare providers will be facing the consequences for years. They were forced to postpone elective procedures and outpatient visits to accommodate the surge of COVID-19 patients. While that was at the beginning of the year, many caregivers are now witnessing increased outpatient visits. Let’s take a look at some numbers regarding the fluctuation of outpatient visits, what caregivers should focus on now, and how patient safety and communication can be achieved with positive patient identification.

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What has been the situation since the pandemic hit?

While the novel coronavirus has rattled almost every country’s healthcare system, America’s is the one it hit the worst. In addition to the many pre-existing issues with the healthcare system, the US has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world. In order to make room for the numerous COVID-19 cases, as already mentioned, caregivers had to cancel elective surgeries and also encourage non-critical patients to opt for telehealth visits. 

Updates regarding outpatient visits

The Commonwealth Fund was closely following the updates of patient volumes within hospitals – let’s take a look at the numbers.

Outpatient visits took a significant hit – they had reduced by almost 60% during the early stages of the pandemic. The update provided by the Commonwealth Fund during May showed that patients were returning for outpatient visits, however, they were still one-third lower compared to pre-pandemic numbers. Also, the latest report shows that weekly outpatient visits are somewhat higher now, compared to the pre-pandemic period.

Outpatient visits vary

While this is a good sign for healthcare providers, it must be noted that these vary greatly depending on age, location, specialty, etc. For instance, in-person visits from younger patients are still lower than they were before the pandemic. Visits are higher for urologists, dermatologists, and adult PCPs, whereas behavioral health providers are experiencing lower visits. More Medicare patients are coming for inpatient visits compared to the pre-pandemic period. Telemedicine visits were higher when inpatient visits declined, but its usage is declining. However, its usage is still much higher than it was before the pandemic.

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All these comparisons show that providers and patients are adapting to the new normal. Many patients are suffering from complex diseases and, due to the pandemic, they have been postponing healthcare visits for far too long. However, since restrictions are being lifted, patients are returning for outpatient visits in order to avail healthcare services. While providers are opening their doors to treat patients, they also need to ramp up their patient safety and communication efforts. After all, the post-pandemic world is completely new for everyone – there’s no tried and tested formula to ensure everyone’s safety. Healthcare providers also must make sure that their patients are not contracting COVID-19. Let’s see how this can be a possibility.

How patient safety and communication are hampered

All of the patients of any given hospital must first be identified. This happens either at the registration desks or within the emergency department. Different caregivers have different patient identity verification methods in place. Now, many caregivers either use inefficient methods, like questioning patients, or use solutions that have become outdated, such as contact-based patient identification platforms. 

When asking patients questions, there are high chances that the registrar or nurse will identify the wrong medical record – they might need to find the record from an EHR system that contains thousands. Moreover, duplicate medical records are quite prevalent. Whatever the case may be, such inefficient methods hamper patient safety, lead to poor communication, and adversely impact patient outcomes.

While many used touch-based solutions to identify patients before the pandemic, COVID-19 has rendered these solutions unsatisfactory. Many caregivers have witnessed significantly lower utilization of these solutions – patients simply are reluctant to touch them. This is because of the pandemic and the fear of contracting the virus, which is not unreasonable. Every patient of any given hospital is processed from registration desks and EDs – can you imagine how disastrous it would be if one of them had COVID-19? Once the infected patient touches the device, it would lead to everyone else becoming infected. Before, infection control was a common headache of caregivers, and now it is a concern for patients too. Touch-based solutions have always had an impact on patient safety, but only the most forward-thinking caregivers foresaw this. That’s why they went with RightPatient, improving patient safety and communication in the process.

RightPatient enhances patient safety

RightPatient is the leading patient identification platform used by caregivers who prioritize patient safety. It’s an entirely touchless solution that uses a powerful photo-based engine and patients’ faces to identify them across the care continuum. 

Whenever patients arrive at the hospital, all they need to do is look at the camera – the platform matches the saved photo taken during registration with the present one, ensuring an entirely touchless, hygienic, and safe experience for everyone involved. This eliminates the risk of contracting infectious diseases and enhances patient safety.

By identifying patients accurately right from appointment scheduling, as well as other touchpoints, RightPatient ensures patient data integrity by preventing data corruption, improving communication across the care continuum and reducing the chances of medical errors based on incorrect patient data.

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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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Wrong Patient Identification Errors Lead to Several Issues – Are You Preventing Them?

Patient identification has always been hit or miss within the US healthcare system. Wrong patient identification errors cause a plethora of serious issues for not only healthcare providers but also patients. Patient mix-ups, patient safety issues, medical identity theft, duplicate medical records, and overlays are just some of the many issues that can be traced back to patient identification errors. These issues have been popping up even more during the pandemic, leading many experts to demand a patient identifier. While we’ve talked about all of that in previous articles, let’s take a look at a very recent patient mix-up, its consequences, and how positive patient identification can prevent such cases.

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Another one added to the list of wrong patient identification

The mix-up took place back in August at Washington-based Sacred Heart hospital. Interestingly, the person with whom the hospital mixed up the information was a former patient of the healthcare provider. 

For simplicity’s sake let’s call the actual patient Samantha and the former patient (who got the call) Rebecca.

Back in August, Rebecca’s daughter was called and she was informed that her mother was hospitalized due to a critical injury. However, the daughter responded that Rebecca was right in front of her and fine, but the staff at the hospital was adamant and said that her mother was injured and admitted. Understandably, Rebecca was quite worried about the real patient, Samantha.

Rebecca and her daughter reportedly informed the healthcare provider that they had a case of mix-up on their hands – she said that she didn’t know who was being treated under her name or why. In response, she was told that the hospital would rectify the issue. However, that was only the start.

What happened down the road?

Since Rebecca was a former patient of Sacred Heart, she checked her records to see if it was fixed or not. Unfortunately, the wrong information was still present, and to make things worse, other irrelevant materials were added, such as $3,000 worth of bills. Moreover, the provider also tried to bill her old insurer, which naturally didn’t work. Subsequently, the provider attempted to help her get insurance.

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The actual patient was safe

Rebecca heaved a sigh of relief when she found out that Samantha was out of danger – she kept in contact with the hospital over the phone. When this was over, Rebecca was also relieved that she didn’t receive the wrong bills as a result of the mix-up.

Wrong patient identification errors are quite common

While this case didn’t have any adverse consequences, not everyone is as lucky. Wrong patient identification errors occur every day and most are not identified until it’s too late. Not only are they problematic for patients, but they create issues for caregivers as well.

Patients face delays in treatment, incorrect procedures, and repeated lab tests – ultimately hampering patient outcomes as well as jeopardizing patient safety in the process. Moreover, they receive shocking bills for medical procedures or treatments they never received. The lucky ones can have them written off as denied claims, but this is still a huge cost for the providers. 

On the other hand, healthcare providers face unwanted attention, loss of goodwill, denied claims, lower scores, and might even risk losing CMS reimbursements (as they are tied to patient safety). 

All of this is leading to healthcare experts and leaders rallying for a state-funded patient identifier. While this appeal has been denied for over two decades, forward-thinking hospitals and health systems are not waiting for it, and have taken the initiative themselves to eliminate issues related to wrong patient identification errors.

Leading providers are using RightPatient

RightPatient is the industry’s leading touchless patient identification platform trusted by providers such as Grady Health, Catholic Health of Long Island, Terrebonne General Medical Center, and University Health Care System. Using the photos of patients, it prevents patient identification issues like mix-ups, duplicates, medical identity theft, denied claims, and more.

After successfully scheduling an appointment, patients receive an SMS or email, after which patients are required to provide a personal photo and a photo of their driver’s license. RightPatient matches the photos automatically and verifies the identity of the patients remotely. 

Be a responsible healthcare provider and prevent mix-ups and the issues associated with patient misidentification by deploying RightPatient.