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6 Best Practices for Patient Identification

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   June 07, 2018

With safety and finances on the line, effective patient identification methods include requiring adults to present a photo ID, having patients read their wristbands to confirm information, and installing patient registration kiosks.

Effective patient identification is one of the keys to ensuring quality care and avoiding financial losses at health systems, hospitals, and physician practices.

"The misidentification of patients in clinical settings has untold financial impacts for an organization in uncompensated care as well as serious patient safety consequences, such as wrong-side surgeries and even death," according to an article in the Journal of AHIMA's June edition.

A Ponemon Institute survey of 503 nurses, physicians, and health IT workers, the "2016 National Patient Misidentification Report," details some of the negative consequences associated with patient identification failures:

  • 86% of survey respondents said they had witnessed or were aware of a medical error caused by patient misidentification
  • Survey respondents said 35% of claim denials are the result of inaccurate patient identification or faulty patient information
  • On average, claim denials linked to inaccurate patient identification or faulty patient information cost $1.2 million annually

The Journal of AHIMA article, "Tips for Trusting Identity in the Era of Cybercrime and Fraud," highlights six best practices for patient identification:

  • Two-factor authentication is the industry standard for verifying patient identity such as name and date of birth, but using three or four factors such as adding home address is more effective.
  • Asking patients to verbally state their authentication factors is more effective than having registrars ask "yes" or "no" questions to verify information.
  • Adult patients should be required to present a driver's license or some other form of photo ID as part of the identification process.
  • If possible, patients should read their wristbands to confirm the accuracy of their registration. Patients can also be asked to confirm the accuracy of their information on the registrar's computer screen.
  • Healthcare organizations should consider taking photos of patients and including those images in medical records. Benefits of photographing patients include deterring medical ID fraud and helping clinicians to see that they are treating the right patient.
  • Patient registration kiosks have several benefits: they can take a patient's photo, they can match images of a patient to a photo ID or photos in a database, and they can require patients to verify their demographic information.  

Christopher Cheney is the CMO editor at HealthLeaders.

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