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The Right Patient Every Time

The Right Patient Every Time

By Marc Probst

Feb 12, 2016

Updated Jul 13, 2023

5 min read

Patient Identity

As we digitize healthcare and patients move from one care setting to another, we need to ensure, with 100 percent accuracy, that we identify the right patient every time.

Identity is a complex issue that’s only made more complicated by the need to share information across disparate systems. We need a solution and believe that a solution can be found.

Knowing who’s presenting for care at a hospital or clinic is a critical part of providing quality, cost-effective care. But it doesn’t stop with just identifying the patient; we also have to correctly identify their next of kin, guarantor, dependents, and significant other. Any misidentification in any of these areas can co-mingle or overwrite critical information needed to deliver care.

Here are three scenarios that illustrate what can happen when the failure to empirically identify a patient becomes risky—medically, financially, and legally.

  1. You used to go by your middle name and now receive care under your given name—suddenly you have two records. The same can happen for newly married or recently divorced patients. Identifying these duplicate records and reconciling them into one accurate record is time consuming, costly, and potentially dangerous.
  2. Many people have the same name and as computer systems begin to share information, names won’t be enough. Even with the added check of a date of birth, it’s easy for John Doe Jr’s and John Doe III’s records to get mixed. Splitting those records apart is highly complicated and risky and has the potential to create devastating medical errors.

Some individuals don’t want to be identified when they seek care for whatever reason. But, when they present for care and surreptitiously present as another person, the risk to both the individual seeking care and the person they’re pretending to be is tremendous—medically, financially, and legally.

Will a national identifier fix every identification problem? It would be naïve to think that a solution will account for every possible human error that can happen when trying to identify a patient, but we have the technologies to be much, much better as an industry and it’s time we find an innovative way to implement those technologies.

Learn more about CHIME’s initiative.