For Hospitals, Patient Misidentification Impacts Patient Safety, Productivity and the Bottom Line | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

For Hospitals, Patient Misidentification Impacts Patient Safety, Productivity and the Bottom Line

December 14, 2016
by Heather Landi
| Reprints
In a survey, 86 percent of care providers say they have witnessed or know of a medical error that was the result of patient misidentification
Click To View Gallery

Patient misidentification costs the average clinician close to 30 minutes in wasted time per shift and contributes to 35 percent of all medical claims being denied, which is an estimated loss of $17.4 million per year per hospital, according to research by The Ponemon Institute.

The Ponemon Institute sought to examine the root causes of patient misidentification and its impact on healthcare organizations and their patients. The findings of the survey are presented in the “2016 National Patient Misidentification Report,” in collaboration with Imprivata, a healthcare IT security company.

As the healthcare industry has transitioned to digital health records, patient misidentification has become a widespread problem and one that carries significant consequences that negatively impact patient care and the hospital’s financial performance. Patient misidentification can result in medical errors, financial loss, loss in clinical productivity and a negative impact on the patient experience.

The Ponemon Institute surveyed clinicians, chief financial officers and healthcare IT leaders. Of the respondents, 27 percent were professionals in nursing (chief nursing officer, nurse practitioner or registered nurse), 15 percent were physicians, 14 percent were chief financial officers (finance and accounting leadership team), 12 percent were chief information officers (IT operations leadership team) and 5 percent were chief medical information officers (CMIOs) or chief medical officers (CMOs). Other respondents included risk management, quality officers, compliance officers, patient access office and revenue cycle office.

According to 64 percent of respondents, a patient is misidentified in the typical healthcare facility very frequently or all the time, and the majority of respondents (84 percent) strongly agree or agree that misidentifying a patient can lead to medical errors or adverse events.

Further, 86 percent of respondents say they have witnessed or know of a medical error that was the result of patient misidentification. Difficulty finding charts or medical records and finding duplicate medical records for a patient contributes to errors. Sixty-seven percent of respondents say when searching for information about the patient they find duplicate medical records for that patient almost all the time.

The issue of accurate patient identification and correctly matching patients' to their medical records has been an ongoing concern and a top priority for healthcare IT leaders. Many health IT organizations have supported legislation just signed into law by President Obama, the 21st Century Cures Act, for the law's provisions specifically focused on improving patient records matching. The law, which President Obama signed Tuesday, directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review methods used for secure patient matching, including methods used in the private sector, and then report its findings to Congress.

Since 1999, the federal government has been prohibited from spending public funds on the development of a national patient identifier. Samantha Burch, senior director of congressional affairs at the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), said in an interview last week that the GAO study mandated in the law is a step forward in addressing and studying solutions to increase the accuracy of patient data matching. “HHS [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] is not engaging in the patient matching issue in any meaningful way. They need to be at the table. We’re moving towards some House Labor report language, which also addresses this issue, and I think we’re moving toward an understanding in Congress of the impact of the ban and the need to clarify and study this issue and move forward,” she says, referencing a House Appropriations Committee subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill that clarifies that the restrictions on HHS “does not prohibit HHS from examining the issues around patient matching.”

"We're hoping that this will be a launching pad to really achieving an understanding and recognition to clarify HHS being a partner to work with the private sector in this area,” Burch says of the patient records matching provision in the new law.

To tackle the issue of accurate patient identification, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) launched last year a National Patient ID Challenge, a $1 million crowdsourcing competition to incentivize the private sector to develop a patient identifying solution that links patients to their medical records. Finalists of that challenge will be announced in March.

"The absence of national solutions for patient identification and patient matching not only pose serious risks to patient safety, but also lead resources being wasted on cleaning up duplicative medical records, as well as creating other inefficiencies. We believe that accurate patient identification is central to improving patient matching,” Russell Branzell, president and CEO of CHIME, said in a statement regarding the patient identification provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act.


Get the latest information on Health IT and attend other valuable sessions at this two-day Summit providing healthcare leaders with educational content, insightful debate and dialogue on the future of healthcare and technology.

Learn More