Top 5 videos from HIMSS17

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Top 5 videos from HIMSS17

Raymond Aller: Biometrics a crucial next step for patient safety

Director of informatics at the University of Southern California says better patient identification tools can reduce risk of incorrect diagnoses and, in certain cases, death.
By Jessica Davis
02:28 PM
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Raymond D. Aller, MD, director of informatics at the University of Southern California

Current text-based identification systems put patients at risk of death and improper treatments, while putting hospitals at risk of lawsuits, according Raymond D. Aller, MD, director of informatics at the University of Southern California.

Providers are looking at imprecise identifiers that are "subject to errors due to commonality," he said. Furthermore, they often overlook items in patient histories, like allergies, for example.

"My work on patient identification is a national project," Aller said. "I'm trying to get people across the United States to think about patients and identification."

[Also at HIMSS16: UPMC exec on point-of-care apps]

That’s because not identifying patient history, allergies and genetics upfront commonly leads to errors, he added.

Aller will present his thoughts on current patient identification techniques and the methods that could revolutionize the system at HIMSS16 in Las Vegas next month.

An authority on the use of information technology to ensure and improve patient safety and healthcare efficiency, Aller designed the first online surgical pathology information system in the United States. It later became the prototype for anatomic pathology automation tools that most U.S. hospitals use today.

In his talk, "Patient Identification: Biometric or Botched," Aller will present the risks of text-based matching identification systems and the issues that can arise when hospitals assume the identity of a patient. He'll stress the need for biometrics to authenticate patients, through iris patterns, palms, veins and the like.

Aller also intends to discuss success stories of those few healthcare systems using these identifiers to see patients as individuals, instead of text.

"These methods are precise and accurate, and should replace text," Aller said.

Yet many hospitals currently spend exorbitantly just to figure out if the text methods in place are accurate, only to discover a lot of their data is duplicated, or just plain wrong. In some cases he’s seen health systems merge data and then discover the inaccuracies.

"Eventually they have to unmerge the data to fix those errors," he adds. That costs money.

Aller has personal experience with the failed logic of current systems: One hospital in particular accidentally merged the data of 1,600 patients and spent over $100,000 attempting to "unravel the mess," he said.

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The lesson? Not properly identifying people properly can carry serious consequences, and money lost is among the least concerning.

"Nothing is perfect, but there are a lot better identifiers than what we use today."

Aller’s session “Patient Identification: Biometric or botched?” is scheduled for Mar 2, 2016 from 8:30-9:30 in Marcello 4401 at the Sands Expo Convention Center during HIMSS16.

Twitter: @JessiefDavis