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42% of Healthcare CIOs List Patient Matching Issues a Top Priority

Duplicate patient medical records continues to be an issue in healthcare organizations, with four out of ten CIOs saying it is a key priority.

patient matching issues duplicate patient EHRs

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Snell

- While healthcare CIOs cite patient matching as a top issue at their institution, there is still a lack of awareness for how large of a problem duplicate or fragmented patient EHRs can be for providers, according to recent research.

Forty-two percent of CIOs said patient matching was a key focus area, with 24 percent reporting it is not currently a top priority but that it should be, an Imprivata survey found.   

Researchers interviewed healthcare CIOs from 55 hospitals and other healthcare organizations.

Over one-third of respondents – 38 percent – stated they did not know the percentage of external (between institutions) mismatched patient records that would impact their respective organizations. Additionally, 18 percent of CIOs said they did not know the percentage of mismatched patient records within their institution.

“This survey underscores the critical role positive patient identification plays in ensuring patient safety and protecting patient data,” Imprivata Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sean Kelly said in a statement. “Misidentification of patients upon registration creates a ripple effect, with both clinical and financial consequences for hospitals and patients.”

“These survey results are especially concerning because patient misidentification is widely prevalent in busy healthcare facilities due to outdated systems, duplicate medical records, human errors, and miscommunication.”

Seventeen percent of those surveyed also admitted that a patient matching error led to patient harm at their institution.

“Many hospitals still rely on methods that do not guarantee accurate patient identification, such as a person’s date of birth or a health insurance card,” Kelly added. “By implementing a registration solution – such as biometric identification technology, including palm vein – that accurately identifies patients and matches them with their correct EMPI and EHR records, hospitals can reduce the very real risks highlighted in this survey.”

A survey published in the most recent Perspectives in Health Information Management from AHIMA indicated similar issues, showing that not having a standard Master Patient Index (MPI) record process could often lead to duplicate patient medical records.

Researchers reviewed how the MPI process affected HIM professionals specifically. Data standardization challenges, patient-provided information (demographic data) issues, multiple demographic data point challenges, issues in key identifying fields, and MPI challenges that hinder organizational workflow were all key challenges.

Organizations can create a holistic plan to address those challenges by focusing on better collection of data on errors and standardize the approaches to patient identification across all points of registration in the healthcare system, explained Parker University Health Information Management Program Director Joe Lintz, MS, RHIA.

HIM professionals explained that overlaid records and inconsistent methods for collecting changing patient demographic data hindered their organizational workflow.

“The results of the study provided the organization leaders a foundational framework to develop a comprehensive strategic plan of action to address the challenges proactively,” Lintz wrote.

Industry stakeholders also stressed to Congress recently that clarifying the unique patient identifier will enable patient matching and ensure the safe and secure electronic exchange of health information.

The House and Senate FY19 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Bills must include language that will end patient safety issues stemming from patient matching, wrote 33 organizations.

“Patient identification errors often begin during the registration process and can initiate a cascade of errors, including wrong site surgery, delayed or lost diagnoses, and wrong patient orders, among others,” the group stated. “These errors not only impact care in hospitals, medical practices, LTPAC facilities, and other healthcare organizations, but incorrect or ineffective patient matching can have ramifications well beyond a healthcare organization’s four walls.”

Data matching errors and patient matching issues will only continue to occur as the industry pushes for increased data exchange, the letter continued. Furthermore, precision medicine and disease research efforts could be impacted.

Healthcare organizations are mandated under the HITECH Act to adopt EHRs and implement health data exchange. However, the group stressed that not having a consistent patient matching strategy is one of the most significant challenges to ensuring the safe and secure electronic exchange of data.

“The Committee encourages the Secretary, acting through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and CMS, to provide technical assistance to private sector led initiatives in support of a coordinated national strategy for industry and the federal government that promote patient safety by accurately identifying patients to their health information,” the organizations said.

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