Errors in patient identification have become rampant and carry significant consequences that negatively impact patient care and hospitals’ financial performance, according to a recent survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute for Imprivata, a healthcare IT security company.

Top causes for misidentification are problems related to registration and the time pressure that clinicians face in treating patients, according to the study of responses from 503 healthcare executives and care providers in the U.S., which formed the basis for the 2016 National Patient Misidentification Report.

Patient identity mistakes have risen as a result of the use of digital health records, and result in a variety of downstream effects on patient care, particularly impacting patient safety and providers’ financial performance, the Ponemon study found.

Some 64 percent of respondents said a patient is misidentified in the typical healthcare facility “very frequently” or “all the time.” Clarifying identities drains clinicians of time—the study found that it wastes 28.2 minutes in time for the average clinician during his or her shift, costing the average healthcare organization $900,000 per year in lost productivity.

And identity problems affect the bottom line—respondents to the survey estimated that healthcare facilities, on average, lose $17.4 million in denied claims and potential lost revenue as a result of patient misidentification.

The 2016 edition of the report sought to identify the root causes of patient misidentification and its impact on healthcare organizations and their patients. According to 63 percent of respondents, the primary cause of patient misidentification is incorrect identification at the registration desk, and 67 percent of respondents revealed that they almost always have difficulty finding accurate patient information because of the existence of duplicate medical records.

Other primary root causes of patient misidentification include registrar errors, overreliance on homegrown identification systems, and misinformation from patients.

Also See: Why unique patient identifier is needed to cut errors

Patient identification errors are a direct threat to patient safety. Of respondents, 86 percent said that they have witnessed or known of a medical error that was the result of patient misidentification. Additionally, the survey showed that misidentification at registration results in medical errors at the point of care for treatments such as blood transfusions, radiation doses and medication administrations.

“Not only is positive patient identification vital to making the delivery of healthcare in our country as safe as possible, but it’s also the key to enabling interoperability,” said Clay Ritchey, Chief Marketing Officer at Imprivata. “If patients are identified accurately and consistently, we can establish a ubiquitous trust for patient identity that will allow the exchange of patient data across disparate systems to become a reality.”

Nearly three-quarters of respondents believe that positively identifying a patient at registration through biometrics could improve cash flow for their hospitals and reduce denied claims by an average of 25 percent.

“Patient misidentification is a longstanding and unfortunately growing issue facing hospitals nationwide,” said Mollie Drake, former corporate director of access management at Scripps Health, a leading nonprofit integrated health system based in San Diego, California. “Clearly, misidentification can cause inconvenience, and even harm for patients, but this report shines a spotlight on what many people don’t see — that it also has unfavorable effects on clinician productivity and the hospital’s revenue cycle.”

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