Identify correct patient every single time
Goal is fewer duplicate medical records
If patients are incorrectly identified, the integrity of the medical record is at stake, and the patient could possibly be harmed.
"We've done a number of things to address patient identification," reports Tonie Bayman, director of revenue and recovery for patient business services at Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, TX. The patient access department made these changes:
Patient photos are scanned into the system.
Patients receive email reminders to bring photo identification, and registrars remind them to do so during the pre-registration phone call. The department considered taking a photo of the patient at the time of registration, but decided against this.
"To have the technology integrated into our document imaging system was just cost-prohibitive," Bayman explains. "But as some of the software may have come down in price, we might possibly explore that option again."
The department scans the photo IDs into the registration system.
"The next time the patient comes in and presents for service, the ID displays as soon as the patient access rep pulls the patient up," says Bayman. This ID gives registrars the opportunity to realize they've pulled up the wrong patient and back out before creating the account, so no duplicate record is created.
With six million people in the hospital's system, says Bayman, "there are a lot of Debra Smiths. This has reduced the number of incorrect medical record assignments that we create," she says.
Patient access created an electronic consent form, which all patients are asked to sign.
"Before they actually sign, they are asked to confirm that their name and date of birth is correct. This shows up in red letters," says Bayman. In some cases, patients have alerted staff of an incorrect date of birth that prevented a duplicate account from being created.
The system's Master Patient Index gives a percentage of likelihood that the patient is correctly identified.
"There may be similar names and dates of birth, but it's really not the same patient," says Bayman. "This alerts them before they assign the incorrect medical record."
Old process was problematic
Several years ago, registrars at Danville, PA-based Geisinger Health System began taking photographs of patients, but the process soon was discontinued. During the check-in process, the patient would stand against the wall, and a photo was taken.
"The patient would ask to see the photo and would think it was a poor picture of them because they were feeling poorly," says Jean Adams, RN, associate vice president of information technology. "They would ask that the picture be deleted."
Some patients wanted to have multiple photos taken, which caused delays in registration areas.
Barbara Tapscott, CHFP, CPAM, the hospital's president of revenue management, says, "We are looking into the possibility of asking that a patient download his or her photo. We are also in the initial phase of implementing a proof of concept of patient identification via palm readers." (See related story, below, on palm scanning technology used to identify patients.)
The system will accurately identify a patient, even if he or she is unconscious or confused. "We anticipate a reduction in duplicate records and chart corrections," says Adams.
- Michael Bennett, System Executive, Patient Business Services, Memorial Hermann Health System, Houston, TX. Phone: (713) 338-4111. Fax: (713) 338-4388. Email: Michael.Bennett@memorialhermann.org.
- Tonie Bayman, Director, Revenue and Recovery, Patient Business Services, Memorial Hermann Health System, Houston, TX. Email: Tonie.Bayman@memorialhermann.org.