While healthcare systems of COVID-19 affected countries have been facing issues due to the novel coronavirus and the unforeseen challenges it brought with it, the US healthcare system is no stranger to persistent issues. In fact, it is plagued by a number of problems such as the lack of price transparency, outrageous costs, healthcare data breaches, medical identity theft, and many more. However, one overlooked but critical issue many healthcare providers face occurs when they identify the wrong patient – patient identification errors. Let’s explore how patient identification errors occur, why they are so common, what are its consequences, and how to prevent such cases.
How patient identification errors take place
Usually, the wrong patient is identified at the initial touchpoint – registration desks. Existing issues such as duplicate medical records and overlays are typically the main causes of such mix-ups. Moreover, misidentifications can occur further down the line along the care continuum – the operating room, during payment collection, for instance.
Take the case of registration desks at hospitals – these are usually busy and high-pressure environments filled with numerous patients waiting to get processed. In such scenarios, it is not uncommon for healthcare staff to have multiple records open and choosing the wrong patient record inadvertently, leading to patient mix-ups. In addition, duplicate records, overlays, common patient names, and basic search functionalities only add fuel to the fire.
When facing any of the challenges above, the registrars either painstakingly search for the appropriate medical record, get confused if there are duplicates/medical records that are similar due to common names or characteristics, or, are forced to create a new record entirely. While this is a simplified example of how a patient identification error occurs, most of them can be traced back to the registration process. Fortunately, effective solutions are available to ensure positive patient identification at the front-end and across the care continuum – more on that later.
Frequency of patient identification errors
Conventional healthcare has been seriously impacted due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. However, even during such a period, many healthcare providers rallied and are still asking for a unique patient identifier. This is because many caregivers are severely struggling with patient identification errors – failing to notify patients of their COVID-19 test results, experiencing degraded healthcare outcomes, and failing to retrieve or send accurate patient information when required.
What are hospitals doing to prevent misidentification?
As a result, even this year, caregivers have formed a coalition to demand a national patient identifier.
However, there are two outcomes to this:
- Either the national patient identifier will be created this year. Unfortunately, it will take years to implement and roll out across all the hospitals in the states. Moreover, it won’t be enough on its own – it needs another identifier to make the whole process secure and effective, especially one that has experience.
- The ban on a state-funded patient identifier will not be abolished, one that has been in place for around two decades.
But why are caregivers so concerned about patient identification errors? While a few reasons have been very briefly mentioned, let’s explore some of the serious consequences in detail.
The effects of identifying the wrong patient
It jeopardizes patient safety
Quite obviously, associating a medical record with the wrong patient will compromise the entire treatment. As inaccurate information is used for treatment, it will lead to medical errors such as wrong medications, redundant lab tests, surgeries, and more – ultimately leading to deteriorating patient outcomes. While some might be lucky enough to get away with simple billing mistakes, others experience delayed care, readmissions, or even deaths. There are many cases where the wrong individual received an incorrect blood transfusion, chemotherapy, or transplant.
It impacts patient data integrity
Patient information is useful as long as it’s consistent, error-free, and meaningful. Using accurate patient data, physicians can make informed decisions, improving healthcare outcomes, ensuring patient safety, and reducing unwanted incidents. Unfortunately, with patient misidentification, none of that is possible.
When one patient’s medical record starts storing information of a different patient, the data becomes corrupted, as it’s no longer meaningful, usable, and safe. One single incident such as giving a patient the wrong pill can severely impact outcomes, leading to patient safety issues. Moreover, investments made by healthcare providers that require accurate patient data will see significantly lower ROIs, as the data itself is corrupted.
It creates denied claims
Patient misidentification severely impacts the revenue cycle of healthcare providers. When a patient is misidentified at the front-end, the wrong medical record is used for the entire process. When the payer examines the entire process, it detects anomalies such as wrong information used or that the procedure was not covered by the plan, classifying the claim as “denied”. These claim denials significantly hamper the bottom lines of caregivers, sometimes, costing millions of dollars on average.
Fortunately, RightPatient can help prevent all that – and more.
Identify patients accurately with RightPatient
RIghtPatient accurately identifies patients across the care continuum using patients’ photos. It is the leading touchless patient identification platform as it has a vast amount of experience in the area. Given the pandemic, RightPatient is the only feasible solution right now for a safe and hygienic experience that does not lead to hospital-acquired infections
After scheduling appointments, patients are required to provide a selfie along with a photo of their driver’s license. The platform automatically extracts the information and compares the photos to ensure a positive match – verifying identities remotely. RightPatient also locks the medical records of the patients with their photos.
Afterward, during hospital visits, patients only need to look at the camera – the platform verifies identification by matching the live photo with the saved one. Patients are provided with a contactless experience as they don’t need to touch any materials, ensuring hygiene, improving patient safety, and eliminating the consequences of patient misidentification.