Report: Providers must adopt sophisticated tech, stronger policies to prevent duplicate patient records

To improve patient identification matching and lessen the chance of errors, more sophisticated technology will be necessary, according to healthcare experts, but human error will never be fully eliminated.

The authors of a report published recently in Perspectives in Health Information Management examined the causes of such errors, analyzing almost 400,000 records that had duplicates.

They found that the greatest mismatches were due to a field being left blank and the provider entering in a default entry. This happened most with either a person's middle name, a little more than 58 percent of the time, or a Social Security number, about 53 percent of the time.

Middle names caused the most incidents of duplicate records, which in addition to blank entry errors included the middle name being swapped with the first or last name. What's more, misspellings accounted for 53 percent of mistakes in the first name and 33 percent in the last name.

Patient identification errors ranked second on the ECRI Institute's 2016 list of top 10 patient safety concerns. And a report published earlier this year in the Journal of AHIMA revealed that 57 percent of respondents to a survey said they worked routinely on mitigating the effects of patient matching problems.

Better tools, such as biometrics, smart card readers and advanced algorithms are critical to reducing patient matching errors, the authors say, as are enhanced search algorithms in scheduling and registration systems.

Apart from more advanced tech, providers also can reduce errors through policies for name entry conventions and having standard search routines.

"No amount of advanced technologies or increased data capture will completely eliminate human errors," the authors conclude. "Creating policies and procedures for front-end and back-end staff to follow is foundational for the overall data integrity process."

To learn more:
- here's the report