Registrars help to prevent ID theft

Were suspicious documents provided for identification? Were credit monitoring reports received? Did others report suspicions about the validity of a patient's identify? Registration staff should not hesitate to report any of these concerns, says Ronald Marcum, MD, director of the integrity office at Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland.

"Front-line and registration staff are trained to look for activities or behaviors that would alert us to potential medical identify theft, which is a significant risk to the integrity of the medical record," says Marcum.

Registrars report concerns to their manager or supervisor, the hospital's integrity office, public safety, or to the hospital's hotline. "Prevention strategies include education of staff, having a policy in place, having processes in place to identify patients, and more recently, capturing a photo of each patient during initial clinical visits," he says.

Members of the registration staff enter the initial demographics and establish patient identity, depending on whether the registration is by phone or in person, says Marcum. Patient access staff take the patient's photo at the clinical visit. "The challenges are to achieve some standardization for the photo, for example, distance from the camera, a common background and trying to achieve standard head size in the photo" so that patients can be identified from the photo when they check in for their appointment, he says.

When identify theft is confirmed, appropriate authorities are notified, and medical records are corrected or merged through an established process by health information management staff to preserve the integrity of the record. "A flag is placed on the electronic health record of the patient involved, to alert staff to request additional photo identification and make them aware of previous identity theft issues," says Marcum.