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Wednesday, February 24, 2016 1:00 PM

How Patient Identity Impacts all Future Healthcare IT Strategies

Written by Rob Inglish, Practice Director, Patient Identity & Vendor Analysis/Selection


It seems that I cannot even open my email these days without seeing an article, podcast, or contest (yes, I said contest — more on that later) about the enormous problem hospitals are facing of accurately identifying patients. Why now, in 2016, is this seemingly becoming a higher priority? I have a few theories:
  1. Meaningful Use has allowed for an increase in the number of systems gathering data
  2. There is still an issue of interoperability between systems, so often patients get entered multiple times creating duplicate records
  3. The amount of data being exchanged within and between hospital organizations is increasing

So, all of this (and other factors, of course) causes the perfect storm of creating many duplicate records, and the increased potential for misidentification. The outcomes of this can be disastrous, creating a patient safety issue (potential to misdiagnose) or a security issue (sharing patient health data with the wrong person).

And if that weren't enough, this also causes the aggregation of patient data to be incomplete, and thus you don't have a full view of the patient record (think, HIE). So, viewing this, or sending to a providers EHR gets only pieces of the information.

AHIMA recently published survey results about how hospitals are attempting to  solve patient identity challenges.

Some results that stood out to me include:

  • 43% are measuring data quality as it relates to patient identity
  • 47% stated they have a quality assurance step in their registration and post registration process
  • 55% are able to communicate their duplicate rate

PS_-Patient_Identity-Blog-Stats-Infographic-2016-02.jpgWhat this says to me is that there is still a long way to go to get these percentages to 100%. The study did not address what the target duplication rate should be. When I work with hospitals, we usually set a target of 2% as a reasonable “ideal state.”

I particularly liked the quote from the AHIMA press release on the survey:

Accurate patient matching underpins and enables the success of all strategic initiatives in healthcare.”

I could not agree with this statement more. If you can’t accurately identify patients, everything from that point on will be flawed, and cause you more trouble down the road.

I have been working with hospitals for more than 20 years on this topic, and I am happy to see that we are moving in the right direction and taking the right steps to address this issue, which will ultimately benefit the patients. The trick of course, is that there are so many moving parts, and the solution could look different for every hospital, depending on the systems and processes you have in place.

I particularly enjoyed a recent podcast on They interviewed Mark Probst, CIO of Intermountain Healthcare. If you want an example of what it takes to do it right (including investment and focus), listen to this podcast.

You probably won’t need to invest $4M like they did, but identifying your needs, and knowing where you stand today are steps that will point you in the right direction.

I mentioned earlier about a contest aimed at solving the patient identity issue. If you haven’t already heard, CHIME (College of Healthcare Information Management Executives) has issued a National Patient ID Challenge, aimed at the “creation and adoption of a solution for ensuring 100% accuracy in identifying patients in the U.S.” (Did I mention that the prize is $1M?) It is open to anyone and invites people to submit ideas/solutions to solve the nationwide issue of accurate patient matching.

I am very curious to see what will come from this challenge. Maybe you have some ideas? If you don’t want to go through the submission process, I would love to hear what you are doing at your hospital to address this issue. Leave me a comment below!

I have met with a lot of hospitals that are looking to solve this issue of accurate patient matching, yet they don’t always know where to begin. If I could give one piece of advice, it would be to look at your current duplicate rate (do you know what yours is?), and then devise a plan to either update systems or processes to lower that rate.

We’ve offered a lot of our customers a free assessment to learn their duplicate rate — often they are shocked at how high the rate acutally is, and so happy that they now know what it is so they can take steps to improve it.

If you want a free assessment to learn your duplicate rate, click below for more information. Or come visit our team at HIMSS16 to talk face-to-face, and discuss your specific patient identity challenges.