Patient access leaders at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center standardized patient identification processes in 2015 and achieved a 98% registration accuracy rate. Training covered:

  • how to search for an existing patient;
  • how to enter a new patient’s name properly;
  • the importance of asking patients to spell their names.

Patient access leaders at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, which has hospital campuses in Atlantic City and Pomona, NJ, set out to standardize patient identification processes in 2015.

“We needed to assess our process and identify ways to improve it,” says Patient Access Director Jacqueline Lilly.

She led the hospital’s Enterprise Master Patient Index Quality Committee, with representatives from IT, quality and training, and health information management.

“We identified the need for a standardized process for naming conventions and positive patient identification across all points of access,” Lilly says.

At that time, patient access was working with the hospital’s IT department to consolidate electronic medical records across the organization.

“The committee was critical to helping us create the single best process to standardize creation of, and access to, patient records,” Lilly says. These goals were set:

  • Create guidelines and implement education to ensure staff can properly access, maintain, and update a patient’s electronic medical record;
  • Maintain the integrity of patient information;
  • Improve operating efficiencies and minimize adverse events stemming from misidentification and duplicate medical records.

All patient access associates now use the same approach for patient identification.

“This helps prevent duplicate medical record creation. It also helps us establish expectations and accountabilities for maintaining the integrity of our databases,” Lilly notes.

Since the change, the department has maintained a 98% average accuracy rate.

“We are in the process of enhancing our reports to identify medical record duplicates,” Lilly reports. “We are implementing a tool to help automate this process.”

All patient access staff attended training, led by the patient financial services quality and training manager.

“Our slogan was #MPISPELLIT,” Lilly says, explaining that the “MPI” refers to master patient index, and “SPELLIT” reminds staff of the importance of spelling names accurately.

The training covered:

  • how to search the master patient index for an existing patient;
  • how to handle duplicate medical records;
  • understanding what happens if the wrong person is selected;
  • how to enter a name properly for new or existing patients;
  • why it’s important that the patient, not the registrar, should spell the patient’s name.

Lilly explains, “Staff shouldn’t be saying, ‘Do you spell John the standard way?’ Jon might consider his spelling standard.”

Financial Outcomes

Lilly has found that good patient identification is linked to better financial outcomes.

“The revenue cycle process starts with capturing the patient’s accurate demographic information and insurance information,” she explains.

Having correct, up-to-date information makes billing and payment go smoothly.

“When the same patient name and medical record is used on subsequent visits, clinicians have access to information about previous visits and/or medical history,” Lilly adds.

If there were two medical records for a patient, different clinicians might order lab tests even though results of a previous test might still be recent and relevant.

“This affects cost of care,” Lilly explains. “Also, the second clinician might not see a diagnosis the first clinician entered, which could impact treatment.”