Skip to main content

ECRI Introduces HIT-based Patient Identification Tools

News  |  By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   April 10, 2017

The toolkit aims to prevent patient misidentification through the use of health information technology.

Patient misidentification is a big and likely underreported problem for hospitals and health systems, as well as for patients.

The consequences can be significant. ECRI Institute research shows that 9% of patient misidentification events lead to temporary or permanent harm or death.

That's why the ECRI Institute and a stakeholder collaborative it convened, the Partnership for Health IT Patient Safety, has launched a new patient identification resource to help prevent patient misidentification through the use of health information technology.

ECRI is a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that works to improve the safety, quality, and cost-effectiveness of patient care.

The toolkit divides its recommendations into two sections:

  1. Attributes addresses "the information-gathering aspects of patient identification, including the fields and the formats that are available to accommodate acquisition of required information."
  2. Technology addresses "new technologies to improve identification and ways to leverage existing technologies for safe patient identification."

"The Partnership's workgroup on patient identification detected several failure points and focused on a common thread that could improve several parts of the identification process—primarily the use of technology-based solutions," the toolkit says.

"The goals for improving patient identification include eliminating inappropriate, delayed, or unsafe care that can result from inaccurate, inadequate, incorrect, or irretrievable patient information and consistently identifying and transferring proper and correct information."

The toolkit uses the acronym IDENTIFY to outline its recommendations: 

  • Identify: Electronic fields containing patient identification data should consistently use standard identifier conventions
  • Detect: Use a confirmation process to help match the patient and the documentation
  • Evaluate: Use standard attributes and attribute formats in all transactions to improve matching
  • Normalize: Use a standard display of patient attributes across the various systems
  • Tailor: Include distinguishing information enhancing identification on screens, printouts, and those areas that require interventions
  • Innovate: Integrate new technologies to facilitate and enhance identification
  • Follow up: Implement monitoring systems to readily detect identification errors
  • Yield: Include high-specificity active alerts and notifications to facilitate proper identification

ECRI's 88-page document provides educational materials, recommends policies and procedures, and supplies audit tools.

The materials are based on evidence analyzed by ECRI Institute Patient Safety Organization (PSO) in its recently completed deep-dive analysis of more than 7,600 safety events related to patient identification.

To further help healthcare organizations with patient identification, the Partnership for Health IT Patient Safety and ECRI Institute PSO will co-host a webinar on the toolkit in April.


Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.