Researchers Discuss Three Problems, Solutions for Patient Matching

Implementing sound health IT practices can help reduce patient matching errors, but getting a good program off the ground requires buy-in from healthcare executives and stakeholders throughout an organization, according to presenters at an ECRI Institute and the Partnership for Health IT Patient Safety webinar on Thursday.

During the joint webinar, researchers from the ECRI Institute and the Partnership for Health IT Patient Safety, a multi-stakeholder collaborative convened by ECRI, presented an overview of their findings reported in the paper “Health IT Safe Practices: Toolkit for the Safe Use of Health IT for Patient Identification,” which was published in February. ECRI presenters touched on their recent “deep dive” analysis of over 7,600 patient safety events related to patient identification.

Amy Tsou, MD, MSc, senior research analyst, health technology assessment at ECRI Institute, highlighted three of the major contributors to inaccurate patient matching, and three potential solutions. The key problems, explained Tsou, include:

  • Inadequate training of registration staff
  • Lack of patient verification by photo IDs
  • Lack of a standardized process recording identifiers or reporting irregularities

Three potential solutions, Tsou said, are:

  • Educating registration staff
  • Requiring a photo ID with registration
  • Standardizing a process for reporting regularities

 The deep dive analysis resulted in eight safe practice recommendations, which are divided into attributes (the information-gathering aspects of patient identification, including the fields and the formats that are available to accommodate acquisition of required information) and technology (new technologies to improve identification and ways to leverage existing technologies for safe patient identification).

The eight recommendations are captured under the acronym IDENTIFY:

I: Include—Electronic fields containing patient identification data should consistently use standard identifier conventions.
D: Detect—Use a confirmation process to help match the patient and the documentation.
E: Evaluate—Use standard attributes and attribute formats in all transactions to improve matching.
N: Normalize—Use a standard display of patient attributes across the various systems.
T: Tailor—Include distinguishing information enhancing identification on screens, printouts, and those areas that require interventions.
F: Follow up—Implement monitoring systems to readily detect notifications to facilitate proper identification.

In a question and answer session after the main presentation, one webinar attendee asked the presenters whether blockchain technology, a technology that developers hope can improve interoperability, can also help in the realm of patient safety.

“Yes and no,” responded Robert Giannini, NHA, CHTS-IM/CP, patient safety analyst/consultant at ECRI Institute. “Working with vendors, they wanted us to tell them what to do, not how to do it. If we tell them how, it doesn’t spark innovation.”

Click here to read the full toolkit that served as the basis of the webinar.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at the Journal of AHIMA.

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