Coming from the IT side of the healthcare space, I think a lot about software, analytics, big data, and my most recent obsession—patient matching and duplicate records.
I’ll admit I have a personal connection to the challenges we’re seeing today. My name is Janette. My mother’s name is Janet. And to complicate things even further, my husband’s ex-wife’s name is Janet, too. Granted, we’re all different ages and obviously have different social security numbers, but things still manage to get mixed up. But the worst problem—by far—is the unconventional spelling of my name (thanks, Mom!).
My experiences were more complicated when I lived in my home state of CT. I lost track of how many times I explained I’m Janette not Janet. But, the problem I’ve experienced most often is duplicates of my own records, due to the unconventional spelling. One quick example: I had to go to the hospital twice during college. At the second visit, I had a difficult time explaining to intake that they had spelled my name incorrectly the first time and that my birth date was wrong. It appeared to me that an entirely new record was created instead of making a note or attempting to fix the original one. How would this have panned out if I needed to have my records transferred from the second incident to a specialist? What if they sent the first set of records, with incorrect information—not to mention a totally different medical issue—instead of the second set?
I recently attended the annual AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association) convention in Miami. I spoke with numerous organizations about their patient matching/duplicate solutions. One memorable conversation I had was with Steve Kotyk, who serves as Director of Business Healthcare Development at Argo Healthcare Solutions. He cited the following statistics from an internal analysis stating the average rate of unresolved duplicates:
- 19% hospital rate
- 32% IDN (Integrated Delivery Network) rate
- 25% HIE (Health Information Exchange) rate
- 52% commercial lab rate
Kotyk let me know that the commercial lab rate refers to a walk-in lab for patients, not a reference lab. He also informed me (when my mouth was agape) that the statistic was for one provider, so I shouldn’t extrapolate it across all commercial labs—however, those rates don’t generally fare much better, anyway.
Duplicate records are obviously a patient safety hazard, which is by far the most important reason laboratorians should be conscious of the overall problem with patient matching and duplicate records. But that’s not all, the associated cost of a single pair of duplicate records in the laboratory setting has been estimated at $50.1 So not only are duplicate records putting patients potentially in harm’s way, they’re costing organizations a great deal of revenue. So, consider this almost a PSA of sorts, for laboratorians and all of those involved in the healthcare field…what if it was you or your loved one that had delayed care due to a duplicate record? This is a problem that needs to be solved.