How Patient Identification Errors Impact Patient Safety and Security

    September 2021 | Audrey Brislin, AVP of Marketing

    Industry Trends, Identity & Access Management, Partners

    Treat this Growing Problem Before Treating Patients…

    Patient misidentification is not a new issue. Healthcare providers have struggled to match patients with their records for years and the effects are substantial: adverse medical events, duplicate records, insurance fraud, and denied claims to name a few. The pandemic has only made this situation more dire as time is of the essence for overpopulated hospitals. Misidentified patients slow or prevent proper treatment while hindering public health efforts and contact tracing. To assist our customers, this post offers real-word examples of patient identification errors, their impact, and how healthcare organizations can mitigate risk. 


    Patient Misidentification Has Deadly Consequences 

    Patients who are inaccurately identified are treated with incomplete and inaccurate information, which significantly increases the risk of serious harm, medical malpractice, and negative press coverage putting an organization’s reputation at risk. Medical errors are estimated to cause 440,000 patient deaths in the United States each year. This statistic makes preventable medical errors the third most common cause of death in the United States.  Just consider these other statistics:

    • A 2014 report from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) found that 7 out of every 100 patient records are mismatched. The error rate is closer to 10% to 20% within a healthcare entity and rises to 50% to 60%  when entities exchange with each other. 
    • 64% of healthcare leaders say they have difficulties matching records. 
    • 10% of patients are misidentified when they check in for medical care. 


    Patient Outcomes:  

    In a recent blog post, our partner Imprivata shared real-world examples of patient identification errors and how they can lead to medical mishaps:   

    • Misfiled mammogram has tragic consequences.
    • Duplicate patient records conceal unknown drug allergies. 
    • Poor patient ID practices can open the door to insurance fraud. 

    Forward Advantage customer, Marion General Hospital (Marion, IN), shared some of its own challenges with patient misidentification in a customer Q&A. These scenarios include: 

    • An unconscious patient presenting in the ER. 
    • A patient concerned that an identification method, such a thumb print, could be shared with the FBI or police.
    • Duplicate medical records from patients who get married and forget to update the hospital with their new last name. 

    These are just a few real-life examples of how easily patient misidentification errors can occur. The reality is there are many more examples, often with tragic consequences, that are entirely preventable. “Patient privacy, and not being able to use social security numbers like we used to, makes it more difficult to ensure that our staff members are with the right patient,” shared Sherry Ribble, PFS Admin Director at Marion General. “This is such a safety issue that we knew we needed another way to identify patients.” 


    Mitigate Risk and Improve Patient Safety:  

    Touchless verification using advanced palm-vein biometrics goes straight to the source of the problem. Using a patient’s unique palm-vein pattern, proper identification is discreet and efficient. Best of all, it doesn’t rely on manual processes which helps prevents mismatched records, duplicates, and medical errors. With biometric patient identification, patients can expect to receive the care they deserve using their unique medical information, and hospitals are protected against insurance fraud, lost revenue, and medical malpractice claims. 

    Forward Advantage is an authorized reseller and implementer of Imprivata PatientSecure, the leading solution for positive patient identification. Registered patients can check-in at all points of care with a simple scan of the palm. It’s that easy!



    Forward Advantage has decades of experience in the Identity and Access Management space. Imprivata PatientSecure is a natural fit with our other solutions and fits the overarching goal of improving access to information and patient care. Our experts closely follow the healthcare industry and have advised that patient misidentification is on the rise. Forward Advantage will continue to keep an eye on this growing concern and will provide updates as new information becomes available. In the meantime, we encourage our customers to explore the benefits of biometric patient identification. 

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