Patient identification processes in registration areas will change once mobile drivers’ licenses, which are being piloted in Iowa and considered by other states, are implemented. This change could eliminate the problem of fraudulent identification. Some other cutting-edge approaches:
- Patients are given pagers while waiting to be registered.
- Patients are using palm-vein technology at kiosks.
- Patient photographs are taken at registration and displayed on electronic medical records.
In the near future, registration areas might identify patients using drivers' licenses — on smartphones. Iowa is piloting mobile drivers’ licenses, and states including Delaware, California, Arizona, and New Jersey are considering doing so.
If there was an electronic driver’s license that could be embedded in the registration system, it could save a step, says Cynthia Hamilton, director of business and financial systems at Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas. “If you did a demographic query and the person’s electronic driver’s license was returned with his other demographic information, the process of verifying the patient would be easier,” she explains.
Self-service kiosks are used at some of Parkland’s outpatient clinics to identify patients, but utilization isn’t as high as the department expected. “The challenge that we face with the kiosks is with the workflow,” says Hamilton.
In the hospital’s OB/GYN clinic, for example, patients are given pagers similar to those used in restaurants, while waiting to be registered. If patients sign in at the kiosks, they still have to stand in line to receive the pager. “Therefore, they eliminate one step by going directly to the sign-in line,” says Hamilton.
Fewer patients use the kiosks, since the functionality is limited to just signing in for the appointment. “We plan on increasing functionality in the next few weeks to allow the patient to check in to the appointment with additional functionality,” says Hamilton. “This should increase the use of kiosks.”
The kiosks offer these four ways for patients to identify themselves:
- They can use their names, dates of birth, or zip codes and the last four digits of their social security numbers.
- They can use their medical record numbers in place of their names.
- They can swipe their credit cards or drivers’ licenses.
- They can use palm vein identification, which scans the pattern of veins on the users’ palms. This technology allows the registration staff to ensure they have the correct patient every time.
“There is no need to scroll through long lists of similarly named patients to find the correct one, or create a new record if demographics are slightly off,” says Hamilton.
While palm vein scanning is the most accurate way to identify patients, it’s not yet available in every clinic location at Parkland. “As we expand our palm vein scanning housewide, we will see a greater reduction of duplicate records,” says Hamilton.
One barrier is the cost of device implementation. “There are many points of entry for registration that all need devices,” says Hamilton. “The challenge is to make sure high patient volume areas are able to utilize the technology efficiently.”
Some patients remain leery of the palm vein identification. “They have concerns about who would have access to their record, despite staff explaining the process and safeguards to them,” says Hamilton.
Another recent change is that patient photographs are taken at registration. These photos are displayed in the Epic header, order entry screen, and medical administration screen.
“We are in the early stages of implementing this technology,” reports Hamilton. “This will add an extra layer of safety to the identification of the patient during their visit.”
- Cynthia Hamilton, Director of Business and Financial Systems, Parkland Health & Hospital System, Dallas. Phone: (214) 590-4774.