Patient matching—comparing data from different EHR/EMR systems to see if data sources match and belong to the same patient to obtain a complete record of the patient’s health—is crucial, and patient misidentification has big implications for C-suite hospital leaders, according to a new survey of chief information officers (CIOs).
Imprivata, a healthcare IT security company, partnered with healthsystemCIO.com, on a suvey of CIOs at leading healthcare organizations. The survey showed that CIOs rate patient matching among their highest priorities but remain surprisingly unaware of the magnitude of the patient matching problem—both within their own institutions and between partner organizations.
Sixty six percent of respondents—primarily CIOs—said patient matching is or should be among the highest priorities of their health system leadership.
“This response is encouraging because it indicates not only that CIOs think patient matching is important, but also that patient misidentification has implications for other functional C-suite hospital leaders,” says Sean Kelly, MD, chief medical officer at Imprivata. “One implication is duplicate records (a duplicate medical record occurs when a single patient is associated with more than one medical record), which drive up cost and risk in multiple areas from revenue cycle to clinical.”
Yet, the survey showed that CIOs didn’t necessarily know the duplicate rate within their organizations (18% said they don’t) or across organizations (38%).
“These responses suggest the need for improved communication from teams who deal with duplicates, including health information management, to hospital leadership,” says Kelly.
Other significant findings connected patient matching errors with patient safety and information security: 17% of respondents reported a linkage to an incident of patient harm, and 40% related errors to a privacy breach. To address the problem, 15% of respondents have implemented a biometric solution (a biometric solution uses a physical feature of a patient such as their palm vein pattern, iris, fingerprint, face—for facial recognition—to identify the patient and match that patient to their unique medical record) and 53% are investigating biometrics, according to the survey.
“Healthcare executives have a lot of priorities and are under considerable pressure to deliver high-quality care in a cost-efficient way,” says Kelly. “However, their fundamental responsibility is to create an environment in which clinicians and patients have the utmost confidence that the right care is being provided to the correct patient at the right time. That trust between provider and patient can be established by using biometrics to accurately match patients with their unique medical records, at the point of registration and throughout the care continuum. This study should be a wakeup call not only to CIOs but also to their C-suite colleagues of the need to address the patient matching issue in their organizations.”
“Patient matching is a problem at all healthcare organizations, but the root cause can be wildly different at each one,” says Nick Hatt, senior developer at Redox, a healthcare integration company. “Despite the variance with cause, the outcomes are the same: patients can be harmed, personal health information can be breached, and it can be costly to organizations.”
“The study asks several provocative questions of healthcare executives—most notably whether they’re aware of the percentage of duplicate records within their organization,” Hatt says. “A healthcare executive who does not know or understand the mechanisms behind the rate of duplicate patient creation is a cause for concern. The study finds that 17% of respondents indicated that patient matching had caused patient safety issues. In addition, an astonishing 40% reported privacy breaches. Both errors are costly, legal liabilities. It’s important for executive leadership to rally their organization, specifically the often-disparate health information management and IT teams, to solve these types of issues.”