Unique health safety identifiers for better outcomes
Last year, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) found that, on average, 10 percent of a health organization’s patient records are duplicates. Why is this statistic so alarming?
It means your organization is setting itself up to lose revenue. With any percentage of duplicates, the number of patient records in your system will not match the actual number of patients you serve. This skews patient population health metrics and impacts care plan compliance and overall patient outcomes.
Process flaws allowing the creation of duplicate records also pose risks to patient health. Many health organizations simply ask for verbal verification of name and birthday or photo identification, resources which can easily be obtained. Relying on this misinformation from staff makes patient identity susceptible to human error, often enabling misidentification and medical identity theft.
If this isn’t motivation enough for you, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) includes objectives for reducing duplicate records in its nationwide interoperability road map. This year, duplicate record rates are to be reduced to 2 percent, to 0.5 percent by 2020, and less than 0.1 percent by 2024.
How it all adds up
According to figures presented at the 2014 HIMSS Conference panel on “Patient Safety and Risk to Rising Healthcare Costs,” the average cost to reconcile a single pair of duplicate records is $1,000. What is the average cost of a medical malpractice lawsuit? How much of an impact will patient dissatisfaction and negative outcomes cost your bottom line?
Otherwise preventable medical errors can be caused by missing health information or overlays that mingle multiple patients’ records together. Not only are duplicate records putting patients at risk, the results are impacting patient satisfaction and patient outcomes as well.
As the industry shifts toward the value-based care model, patient outcomes are now directly tied to revenue. Duplicate records pose a dual threat to patient safety and reimbursement.
With duplicate records, you cannot know your true patient population or accurately assess treatments. Results are skewed. Information is fragmented. Repetitive tests are ordered. Care costs go up. Without accurate data, your organization could be missing critical population information that can cost you greatly.
One record per patient
It’s not just a matter of being more diligent with patient intake processes. To remove the possibility for the creation of duplicate records, an organization must implement a unique health safety identifier (UHSI)—a secure one patient, one record model.
The ONC released its “Patient Identification and Matching Final Report” in February 2014, with findings that further illustrate the need for a UHSI. The report states, “The [patient identifying] attributes are generally highly variable from an implementation standpoint, with few fields being required, and little to no standardization of the data attributes themselves.”
This problem was previously acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2007. Its report on patient identification, created in collaboration with the Joint Commission and Joint Commission International, proposed the standardization of patient identity verification and suggested the use of biometric technologies.
Without an efficient way to identify and match patients with records, we cannot eliminate the creation of duplicate records. This problem also hinders interoperability efforts. If there is no standardization, the transfer of data is practically useless. Providers need complete health data to determine appropriate treatment as well as complete and accurate identification data.
Starting a national conversation
A petition was posted last spring calling for the development of a voluntary UHSI, as part of the AHIMA MyHealthID advocacy campaign. While the campaign’s intention was to educate consumers and decision-makers, the petition’s stated mission was to “Remove the federal budget ban that prohibits the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from participating in efforts to find a patient identification solution.”
The petition did not reach its goal of 100,000 signatures, but it did succeed at starting the conversation about finding a solution. While the uncertainty of health reform on the horizon, health IT organizations are seizing this opportunity to resolve the issues themselves.
Health IT and UHSI for better outcomes
The implementation of a UHSI can solve the problems of duplicate records and misidentification, but it also holds promise for so much more—such as securing the front end of a health system from misuse or fraudulent activity. The UHSI model is being used in comprehensive patient identity solutions to tie the UHSI to insurance and payment information, thereby decreasing payment cycles and claim errors.
By streamlining patient intake, identification and payment processes, patient identity solutions could enable greater clarity and engagement between providers and patients. These benefits have the potential to improve the overall patient experience, which is second only to improved data accuracy for appropriate treatment and better outcomes. That accomplishment will be a huge victory for enhanced quality care that will greatly benefit both patients and their health providers once implemented.
By Tom Foley, Director of Global Health Solutions Strategy