A Guide for Medical Students regarding Patient Misidentification

Patient misidentification plagues the US healthcare system, and all of us get to hear such cases every other day. Patient mix-ups and duplicate medical records may lead to wrong treatments, financial losses, and sometimes even deaths. But why is patient misidentification so common?

Even though medical records exist within the various EHR and EMR systems used by hospitals, a lot of detrimental issues like duplicate records and mix-ups cause patient misidentification. Such problems occur due to a lot of factors.

However, one of the more likely reasons is how the different hospitals and healthcare systems collect the patient data- they have their methods or requirements, which may cause issues of interoperability. Let’s see what it is. 

Digitization of Health Records

Almost a decade has passed since the digitization of health records was initiated, courtesy of HITECH. The idea was to convert these records using technology and bring them in modern times, and in theory, it was supposed to work.

However, it was ineffective in addressing the patient matching issues and focused on only helping bring the records up to speed with modern times. These digitizations helped the health systems and hospitals within their premises only, as data could not be meaningfully shared among other healthcare providers. For example, one health system may use two fields in their EHR system for inputting the patient address, whereas another hospital may enter the address in a single data field. Likewise, some hospitals may use only the first and last name fields, whereas others may use first, second, and last name fields for the names of the patients. All these create challenges in identifying the right patient when they come to avail healthcare services.

Interoperability issues are just one side of the problem. Duplicate medical records bring more misidentifications into the mix. It occurs when a new patient record is created within the EHR system for an already existing patient. This hampers patient safety by missing out on medical history, which is attached to the original medical record; thus, improper treatment might be given to the patients. 

Thus, as can be seen, patient identification is not that simple and is quite problematic, not only for the patients but also for healthcare providers as well. There are endless stories about how patient matching errors have caused misdiagnoses, wrong treatment, and sometimes even fatal consequences for the patients. The healthcare providers’ side is affected as well due to denied claims, revenue cycle inefficiencies, insurance fraud, as well as patient safety issues.

Looking at Some Health Systems

However, some health systems are far ahead of others in terms of accurately identifying their patients. How are they doing that? Well, health systems like Novant Health and Terrebonne General Medical Center are correctly identifying patients, thanks to RightPatient- a biometric patient identification platform. 

It uses biometric data such as fingerprints or irises of patients to lock the medical records so that the right patient is identified every time he/she enters the premises and gets the biometric data scanned, preventing medical identity theft as well.

RightPatient finds the accurate medical record within seconds, thus, avoiding the creation of new duplicate medical records. According to the users, the patient acceptance rate is high, since they see how quickly and effectively it identifies them.

Also, it ensures patient safety, minimizes losses, and optimizes the revenue cycle. It scans through millions of records and recognizes the correct record every time, creating an enhanced patient experience along the way. Thus, RightPatient not only helps the patients, but it also helps the healthcare providers as well, creating a win-win situation for everyone. 

Author: Stella Lincoln

I am Stella Lincoln having a master degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in the subject of marketing. I love to spread the knowledge and wisdom. My focus is to enhance my skills and reduce the gap. You can check my write-ups at my blog; Educator House. Nowadays, I am working in HarperCollins Publishers as a Writing Consultant.