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Monday, 20 September 2021 16:09

Top six benefits of verifying patient identity accurately

By Guest Writer

GUEST OPINION: It might seem unbelievable, but even in 2021, verifying patient identity is still quite problematic across U.S. hospitals and health systems. That’s because there’s no effective and standardised patient identifier available yet. Sure, many might argue that medical record numbers, Social Security numbers, and similar identification techniques are actually patient identifiers, they are far from perfect.

Moreover, caregivers use different and obsolete techniques that ultimately cause patient misidentification. On the other hand, responsible caregivers are verifying patient identity accurately by using innovative solutions and enjoying several benefits.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at why it’s so crucial to identify patients accurately and its most common benefits.

Why verifying patient identity is so crucial

EHR systems house tens of thousands of electronic health records, and in some cases, even millions of them. While there are a lot of aspects of healthcare that have been digitized, a crucial one was left out - patient identification. There was supposed to be a unique patient identifier around two decades ago, but privacy concerns, among other issues, enforced a ban on the funding of a patient identifier. 

After almost two decades, tens of thousands of patients have been misidentified, leading to patient safety incidents, duplicate and overlaid medical records, denied claims, deaths, and more.

Let’s take a look at an example that shows how patient misidentification occurs.

A patient called Reed Richards goes to a hospital. Now, when the registrar is verifying patient identity, they see that several other records look like they belong to the patient. This happens for several reasons - lack of a proper patient identification platform, common names, overlapping demographic characteristics, existing duplicate medical records, etc.

All of these make it quite difficult to distinguish between the EHRs. Also, the fast-paced and high-pressure environment doesn’t help either, leading to the registrar either choosing the wrong EHR or spending considerable time to find out the accurate one. 

However, not all healthcare providers are facing the same problems as the responsible ones are identifying patients accurately with a touchless patient identification platform.

Top 6 benefits of verifying patient identity accurately 

It reduces misdiagnosis and mistreatment

It’s quite simple - when the patient is misidentified right from the start, they are being treated using the wrong EHR. As a result, physicians will be using the wrong medical history, medications, vitals, progress notes, immunization dates, and other information to treat the patients, leading to inaccurate diagnosis, mistreatment, wrong medication administration, and worse.

When hospitals and health systems identify patients accurately, physicians have access to unfragmented and proper information such as the patient’s medical history, medications, vitals,  progress notes, and immunization dates right in front of them. Armed with this, physicians properly identify the illness, come up with an accurate medical plan, and treat the patients accordingly.

It minimizes duplicate medical records and overlays

Duplicate medical records and patient misidentification are closely related. Duplicate medical records are created when one patient has more than one EHR within the system - usually created because of patient identification errors. On the other hand, overlaid medical records are created when EHRs of different patients are merged - this occurs when the healthcare provider believes that these belong to the same patient! Both are extremely dangerous and can cause several issues down the line such as misdiagnoses, mistreatment, hospital readmissions, transplant mix-ups, and worse. 

Fortunately, proper patient identification prevents patient mix-ups as it ensures that the accurate EHR is selected every time across the care continuum. The patient schedules an appointment, comes in, and just needs to go through the verification process. Moreover, accurate patient identification eliminates the number of duplicate medical records created within the EHR system - reducing cleanups required down the line.

It prevents medical identity theft

One surprising consequence of the lack of accurate patient identification is medical identity theft. Since there’s no effective way to identify patients, fraudsters go to hospitals with ample information about the patient that helps them go through the obsolete verification process - they can get away with committing medical identity theft!

However, with a touchless biometric patient identification platform, fraudsters cannot impersonate the patients and as soon as they go through the verification process, the platform red-flags the individual as no match is found and prevents medical identity theft in real-time.

It ensures patient data integrity 

By now, some of the issues caused by patient misidentification should be clear. When patients are misidentified, their medical records are mixed up, and as a result, the wrong information gets entered into the wrong EHR. This hampers patient data integrity as the information is corrupted, fragmented, inconsistent, and incomplete. Whenever this corrupted electronic health record is used, issues such as redundant or unnecessary lab tests, wrong medications, and mistreatment are seen at one point or the other. 

Proper patient identification prevents ensures that high quality and accurate data is fed to the appropriate medical records at any point across the care continuum - helping healthcare providers maintain patient data integrity

It improves patient safety

We’ve already seen above how patient misidentification leads to misdiagnosis, mistreatment, and medication administration errors, but what do they lead to? 

Well, patient outcomes are adversely impacted and all of it jeopardizes patient safety. Just imagine if a patient that doesn’t have diabetes gets medication related to diabetes! Moreover, there have been many cases where the wrong patient received the wrong organ via transplant! All of these severely hampers patient safety and might even cause fatalities. 

Improving patient identification has been one of the top ten patent safety goals for several years now. It’s simple - accurate patent identification leads to accurate information being used by physicians to provide treatment - preventing adverse healthcare outcomes, eliminating patient mix-ups, and reducing hospital readmissions. 

It reduces denied claims

Inaccurate patient identification has several consequences, one of which is denied claims. 

When the patient is misidentified and assigned the wrong EHR, the healthcare provider accumulates all the information and sends the claim to the payer (typically the insurance provider). 

When the insurance provider identifies that the claim has errors, it rejects or denies the claim. Denied claims are nothing uncommon and can cause millions in losses for the average hospital. Most of the errors in denied claims can be traced back to choosing the wrong EHR during the registration process. These can simply be eliminated with accurate patient identification at the front-end. 

Healthcare providers that are ensuring accurate patient identification witness fewer denied claims as the appropriate EHR is used for treatment, billing, and coding.

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