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CIOs Unaware of Patient Misidentification Problem, Survey Finds

May 15, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Healthcare CIOs rate patient matching among their highest priorities, but are still unaware of the magnitude of the patient matching problem—both within their own institutions and between partner organizations, according to a new survey from Lexington, Mass.-based security company Imprivata.

Patient matching in healthcare describes the techniques used to identify and match the data about patients held by one healthcare provider with the data about the same patients held either within the same system or by another system (or many other systems). The inability to successfully match patients to any and all of their data records can impede interoperability resulting in patient safety risks and decreased provider efficiency.

For this survey, CIOs from 55 hospitals and other healthcare organizations provided insights into patient matching. The findings revealed just how serious the patient matching challenge is for hospitals, with 42 percent of respondents saying that patient matching is among their very highest priorities. An additional 24 percent said that patient matching is not currently a top priority, but it should be.

But despite this sensitivity to the problem, the survey exposed a lack of awareness regarding the size of the patient misidentification problem within each institution. When asked the percentage of mismatched patient records within their institution, 18 percent admitted that they simply did not know.

This lack of awareness grew when respondents were queried about external mismatched patient records, with 38 percent of respondents saying they did not know the percentage of external (between institutions) mismatched patient records that would impact their respective organizations.

The survey also reinforced the connection between patient misidentification and patient harm. Seventeen percent of respondents acknowledged that patient harm had actually occurred at their institution as the result of a patient matching error.

“This survey underscores the critical role positive patient identification plays in ensuring patient safety and protecting patient data. Misidentification of patients upon registration creates a ripple effect, with both clinical and financial consequences for hospitals and patients,” Sean Kelly, M.D., chief medical officer at Imprivata, said in a statement. “These survey results are especially concerning because patient misidentification is widely prevalent in busy healthcare facilities due to outdated systems, duplicate medical records, human errors, and miscommunication.”

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