Securing data integrity at the ‘front door’ of care delivery

Although most of the health industry has moved records and administrative processes from paper to digital, human error remains a costly issue.
09:10 AM

Human fallibility

People make errors. Generally speaking, this fact is collectively understood, and we make concessions when necessary, working to repair and correct when possible. However, in the health industry, human errors become more costly than the norm, ultimately impacting the wellbeing of patients—even to the point of death. In fact, a recent study released by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine concluded that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, leading to at least 250,000 deaths every year.1

Potential dire consequences, however, are not merely in the realm of healthcare practitioners. Human errors in health administration, from registration and checkout procedures to diagnostic recordkeeping, also significantly contribute to patient safety and the quality of care.

Administrative challenges

To ensure quality care—and that the right person is being identified and treated—healthcare administration requires complete accuracy, efficiency and security. Data quality is imperative. But what about the human factor? There are manual entry errors, misspellings and misunderstandings.

Moreover, even with most health institutions already using electronic health records (EHR), front-desk staff still rely on verbal identity confirmation. Statistics show that 7-10 percent of patients are misidentified when their EHR records are being searched and 6 percent of these patients experience an adverse event. Also, AHIMA reports that 8-12 percent of EHR records are duplicates.2 So as the digital transformation of health institutions continues, the accuracy of care administration must be addressed.

But data integrity is not just impacted by duplicate records and patient misidentification. With the increase of identity theft through breached cybersecurity, criminals are using the stolen information to reach beyond the victim’s bank accounts. As a result, corrupt data is often walking right through the front door of health institutions in the hands of these cybercriminals. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 19 people become victims of identity theft every minute,3 so it’s no surprise that this crime translated into an estimated 2.3 million medical identity theft cases in 2014 alone.4

IT integration for data integrity

Clearly, successful integration of health IT goes beyond implementing EHRs. In the rapid transition to value-based care, health institutions understand that without a true, quality data set, there cannot be accurate statistical results. Across the board, care delivery organizations are implementing various back-end health IT solutions to move toward greater security and quality within their system—often because of front-end data errors. For example, many institutions spend significant (and costly) time on the back end to find duplicate records and merge them correctly. They are constantly fixing the problem, but they are not pursuing a preventative solution. With this correction-only approach, there are still data quality issues that impact patient base outcomes; therefore, the data is being misreported.

Moreover, these issues are focused on a single silo of care. What about interoperability? What about medical identity security and patient record integrity across an individual’s care continuum? Is there a solution that fundamentally addresses both the front-end data quality challenges and data interoperability?

UHSI for front-end accuracy and value-based care

The solution for front-end accuracy and point-of-access patient authentication is a unique health safety identifier (UHSI). It means one patient, one record, across the continuum of care. The data stays credible because the patient controls it as he/she traverses his/her personal path of wellness. Data not only has integrity within a single EHR silo, but the UHSI brings interoperability across health systems and geographies to every point of care.

The adoption of a unique health safety identifier eliminates medical identity errors and duplicate records, taking the legacy cost out of the system. Only when health institutions take the correct measures to ensure true data quality (one patient, one identifier, one record) will the adoption of a value-based care/accountable care organization model be possible.

By Tom Foley, Director of Global Health Solutions Strategy

  4. Medical Identity Fraud Alliance. Fifth Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft. February 2015
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