PATIENT SAFETY

Patient Identification: IT Group Seeks Solution; Safety Expert Urges Labs to Examine Internal Processes

The innovator who develops the best solution to accurately identify patients throughout the health care continuum may earn a $1 million reward.

That’s the idea behind the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives’ (CHIME) National Patient ID Challenge. The national association of CIOs and health IT suppliers is partnering with HeroX (a challenge- launching platform) in the year-long crowdsourcing competition that will reward the winner with $1 million.

Labs Advised to Look Internally for ID Gaps
As to labs, pathologists and laboratory leaders may tap matching technology that helps labs match patient records from multiple organizations. Systems still rely on manual entry, pointed out Tejal Gandhi, M.D., president and CEO of the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF). She told National Intelligence Review (NIR) that labs also need to look at processes within the lab itself that could lead to a potential breakdown in patient identification.

"For example, do labs have a closed-loop communication? When they send results out, do they know for certain the provider actually got them? There are lots of things that can fall through the cracks," Gandhi said in an interview with NIR. "So, think of processes, potential gaps, and how labs can redesign to make the processes more reliable. That is going to be real important (to patient safety and identification)," she added.

Patient Identification’s Important
Indeed, patient identification is important, Challenge organizers also say, because errors continue to occur in health care organizations due to lack of a universal way of accurately identifying a patient.

In fact, the error rate in matching patients to their records is usually 10 to 20% within a healthcare system. It can rise to 50 to 60% when organizations exchange data through the care continuum, CHIME pointed out in a statement. CHIME data suggest that 60% of members use some form of a unique patient identifier to match patient data within their organizations. Others rely on complicated algorithms. About 20% of CHIME members said at least one adverse medical event can be associated with incorrect patient matching.

"As we digitize health care and patients move from one care setting to another, we need to ensure with 100% accuracy that we identify the right patient at the right time. Anything less than that increases the risk of a medical error and can add unnecessary costs to the health care system," said Marc Probst, CHIME board of trustees chair. He is also vice president and CIO, Intermountain Healthcare, Salt Lake City, which spends between $4 million and $5 million each year on patient identification-related technologies and processes, according to a CHIME statement.

Challenge Guidelines and Deadlines
The Challenge seeks to establish a more secure method of patient identification than the social security number, which is also tied to financial and personal records and could be stolen, CHIME pointed out on the HeroX Web site.

Conversely, a stolen national patient identification number—unlike a social security number—can be terminated and replaced with a new number, CHIME added.

Submissions for the Challenge Concept Blitz Round are due April 8 with final submissions (whether or not people participate in the Concept Blitz) due Nov. 10. The winner will be announced Feb. 19, 2017. A CHIME spokesperson told NIR that 86 innovators have signed up at this writing.

CHIME said it is seeking the best plan, strategies, and methodologies that will accomplish the following: 1) easy and quick identification of patients; 2) 100% accuracy in patient identification; 3) patient privacy protection 4) patient identity protection; 5) adoption by vast majority of patients, providers, insurers, and other stakeholders; and 6) scale to handle all U.S. patients.

Gandhi said the NPSF does not have a Challenge entry, but she may be involved another way. "We support the project, because we think patient identification in all these areas is a big issue," she said.

Takeaway: A national IT organization hopes to find an answer to the complex problem of patient identification and protecting patients from medical errors as electronic health records proliferate. A patient safety expert also encourages lab leaders to look at their internal processes and how they help ensure patient identification and accuracy.

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