Mobile apps could be the solution to better patient matching, RAND analysis says

Carefully designed smartphone apps could be the antidote to an epidemic of mismatched patient records. (Getty Images/elenabs)

As little as 50% of patient records are correctly matched between providers. And when clinicians use information in the wrong record to make medical decisions, it can lead to dangerous situations in patient care.

There should be an app for that, according to a new analysis from the RAND Corporation.

An EHR app makes sense because smartphone adoption and functionality have increased dramatically in recent years, RAND says. This solution would also simplify the check-in process and provide patients with greater control over their records, the report explains.

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But viable, tangible solutions still need to be developed. And even if it existed, an EHR app wouldn’t be a silver bullet, the report admits.

The Pew Research Center, which is cited in the report, says only 46% of Americans age 65 and older own a smartphone. This demographic uses health services more than any other age group.

Robert Rudin, Ph.D., an information scientist at RAND and lead author of the study, noted that a simpler mobile phone-based tool would not require patients to have smartphones. Verifying data via text message could be done on any cell phone, even a flip phone.

Rudin also suggested that smartphone adoption will increase among older Americans by the time this kind of app is developed and released. In the meantime, caregivers serving as proxies could access the app on their smartphones as well, he said.

RELATED: Patient-matching issues cost hospitals $1.5M a year

Several logistical challenges remain. Patients may not want another person—such as a caregiver, spouse or parent—to access their health information, especially if that person is abusive. Privacy and security is a difficult but imperative hurdle, and Rudin said developers are still “at the very early stages of thinking about how to handle that.”

Although an app like the one RAND described seems futuristic now, creating it will be inexpensive, Rudin said. Some of the technology, including APIs, will be open-source to ensure widespread adoption.

“We would just need support for a development effort and some clinical technical partners to move it along," he said.

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