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Often when we think of problems with patient identify, we think of stolen identification. While this can and does happen, there are other ramifications more common that result from lack of having the correct patient information. If individuals are registered under the wrong patient or even wrong account, test results may not be readily found that may adversely affect patient safety because the patient may not receive appropriate and/or timely treatment. Financial inefficiency may also result.

The two most common patient identification errors are duplicate medical records and overlays. A duplicate medical record occurs when a single patient is associated with more than one medical record. An overlay occurs when one patient’s record is overwritten with data from another patient record which creates a combined, inaccurate record. American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) reports that on average , the duplicate medical record rate is between 8-12%. And they state that approximately 40% of all records have blank or default values in one of the key data fields of first name, last name, date of birth, gender of Social Security Number. The healthcare industry experts report that the average estimated cost associated with a duplicate record can be as much as $1,000 per record, much less the potential for patient dissatisfaction and potential safety hazard that may occur.

Registration errors are common and special efforts from the front end are occurring to assist with minimizing the opportunity for human error. The use of biometric technologies is also emerging as an an effective positive patient identification solution.