Patient Matching Errors Continue To Be Common

Patient matching problems are persistent across healthcare organizations and continue to pose patient safety risks, according to a new survey addressing these issues.

The survey, which was conducted by the eHealth Initiative and commissioned by NextGate, included 118 respondents, roughly two-thirds of which were providers. Just over one-third were C-Suite executives, 31% were upper or middle managers, 26% were directors and 7% fell into an “other” category.

According to the survey report, roughly 38% of U.S. healthcare providers have incurred an adverse event in the last two years resulting from patient matching issues.

It’s not that healthcare leaders aren’t aware of this problem. In fact, the bulk of HIEs and providers responding to the survey said that they’d dedicated employees to resolve problems with potential duplicates and mismatches. The records they flag are often addressed on either a daily or weekly basis.

The majority of respondents (32%) said that 3 to 10 percent of stored records were duplicates. Another 29% said that less than 3 percent were duplicates, 11% estimated that it was more than 10 but less than 25, 8% reported that more than 50% might be duplicates, and 1% estimated the level as 25% to 50%.

When asked what contributed to the existence of duplicate records within their organization, 66% said data entry errors were the greatest contributor, followed by record matching/search terminology (46%) and poor system integration (42%). In addition, 35% pointed to registration staff turnover and 35% to a lack of industry-wide data standards.

Most (80%) of respondents are bringing on additional staff to tackle this problem, including both dedicated employees or contractors.

When asked what the biggest barriers were to improving their organization’s patient matching activities, top responses included lack of prioritization (41%) and a lack of technology (41%). Other concerns were a lack of data governance protocols and procedures (38%), lack of staff (34%) and lack of funding (30%). (Respondents could choose multiple responses if they wished.)

When asked what percent of all stored records within their organization were duplicates, the largest number (32%) estimated the level to be 3 to 10 percent. This includes 46% who have dedicated 1 to 3 employees to managing record mismatches and 14% who have dedicated 4 to 6 employees to the task. Others (9%) reported dedicating 11 to 13 employees and 4% had assigned 14 to 16 employees,

Given that patient matching errors persist in most healthcare organizations, what is to be done to fix the problem? One possible approach is having the federal government organize a nationwide patient matching strategy. Researchers found that 70% of respondents expressed some degree of support for this idea, with 31% giving it their full support. In fact, we’ll be hosting a talk about a National Patient ID at HIMSS 2020 if you’d like to join us to learn more.

Given the extent of these concerns, it makes sense that about 70% of provider and HIE leaders said that they “completely” or “somewhat“ agreed that federal funds should be made available to create a national patient identifier.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.