Ask any healthcare professional who is in synch with some of the major issues that the healthcare industry faces about the persistent problem of establishing accurate patient identification and chances are they will agree that it continues to be a top priority. Current patient identification and data matching initiaves underway by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) offer practical suggestions for matching patients with their health information.
A quick scroll down the list illustrates that the bulk of recommendations centers on standardizing patient identification attributes, supporting non-traditional matching attributes such as email addresses to improve data matching, enhancing EHRs to include the capability of providing duplicate medical record reports, and alerting patients to the importance of keeping their demogrphic information current and up-to-date. These are all very solid building blocks to advance the goal of accurate patient identification but seem to place the emphasis on accurate patient identification at the point of entry and does little to address the importance of verifying a patient’s identity at each touch point throughout the care continuum.
As clinicians know, ensuring patient identification accuracy prior to administering any type of care from medication distribution to diagnostic testing to radiology and oncology services and beyond is essential to make sure the right care is delivered to the right patient. For example, according to research from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) 1.5 million preventable adverse drug effects (ADEs) happen in the United States each year and ADEs cost the United States $37.6 billion each year, with approximately $17 billion of these costs associated with preventable errors. The healthcare industry continues to struggle with errors due to the inability to accurately identify patients prior to care administration. It is costing the industry billions of dollars, not to mention jeopardizing the safety of patients and sullying the brand of healthcare facilities who are victims of patient misidentification that leads to in accurate care.
Most hospitals have policies in place that require clinicians to verify a patient’s identity prior to administering any type of care. The problem is that some of the patient identification technologies that facilities rely on like bar coded wrist bands have become antiquated and are highly susceptible to fraud and errors. Thus, even though a clinician may dutifully check a patient’s ID before say, giving them medication or prior to administering a test, the back-end technology most hospitals rely on to establish identification accuracy does not support the evolving healthcare landscape that requires adopting modern systems that eliminate any possibility of misidentification because they are based on verifying identity through a patient’s physiological characteristics. Characteristics which define individual identity that can’t be forged, swapped, or shared. Technologies like using biometrics for patient identification.
Technolgies such as biometric patient identification are gaining momentum in healthcare settings not only for their ability to accurately identify a patient upon entry into a healthcare facility but also for their utility to quickly and accurately identify patients bedside, in home health, the ER, and other mobile environments or in any other setting prior to care administration. The difference that biometrics brings to the table is it’s ability to not only provide patient identification accuracy without a shadow of a doubt, but also the ability to interface directly with tablets or smart devices and return a patient’s digital health care record in CCD format. The advent of biometrics for patient identification has significantly altered the approach to ensuring ID accuracy, and promises to help reduce or even eliminate errors that are caused by misidentification along that care continuum.