Patient Access

Report: Healthcare Organizations Average 109 Hours Each Week and Over $1 Million Annually Resolving Patient Identity Issues

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New research sponsored by Patient ID Now and conducted by HIMSS Market Insights found that on average, organizations spend 109.6 hours per week and over $1 million each year to resolve patient identity issues, a matter that calls for a national strategy on patient identification.

The industry-wide survey between February to June 2022 received input from about 200 participants on the various challenges of managing and protecting patient identities in healthcare settings. HIMSS and the Patient ID Now Coalition have called on the federal government to work with state, local, tribal and territorial public health authorities, and the private sector, to find a national strategy on patient identification that protects safety and privacy.

Participants included healthcare executives and clinicians, and leaders from IT, technology, health information management, finance, analytics and quality management. All reported they had influence or a role in decision making identity management processes or in the digital identity strategy at their organizations. The identity issues occur because records can be confused and overlaid, multiple records can exist for one patient, and patients can share the same name. Each of these, at times, results in treatment errors.

The survey comes at a critical time in the federal patient identification debate and the decades-long ban on a unique patient identifier, owed to the narrow interpretation of the language by the federal government.  New leadership is expected in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in 2023, and the U.S. may finally see Section 510 removed from the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which has long stifled innovation around patient identification. The section is currently omitted from draft FY2023 appropriations legislation, but with the year winding down it is unclear if this will be kept in any year-end federal funding bill.

Key Findings

Resolving Patient Identity Issues

The study found that on average, 10 full-time employees within healthcare organizations are dedicated to patient identity resolution.

Organizations with more than 1,000 employees are much more likely to allocate additional resources to patient identity resolution, with larger companies devoting an average of 12.9 full-time individuals to patient identity resolution. For comparison, organizations with 200 employees or fewer devote an average of 8.4 full-time individuals to patient identity resolution.

Payers, insurance companies and managed care worksites also reported devoting more full-time individuals to patient identity resolution compared to technology vendor worksites and provider organization worksites.

On average, organizations spend 109.6 hours per week resolving patient identity issues, while more than half of respondents reported spending 21 to 80 hours per week resolving patient identity issues. 

Including full-time employee salaries and benefits, technology and software, more than a third of respondents reported spending over $1 million with only 18% spending less than $250,000 a year.

Duplication and Overlay Rates

Respondents reported having a known or estimated duplication rate of 5.5% on average, with most (60%) reporting duplication rates ranging from 4% to 8%. Duplicate medical records are defined as two or more health record numbers assigned for a single patient at the same healthcare facility.

A quarter have a known or estimated overlay rate of 3% or more. On average, organizations report known, estimated overlay rates of 1.9%. An overlay occurs when one patient's record is overwritten with data from another patient's record, creating a combined, inaccurate record.

This results in patients that undergo or receive duplicative or unnecessary testing or services. Some 70% of respondents agree or strongly agree that patients undergo or receive duplicative or unnecessary testing or services due to mistakes in managing patient identities.

On average, more than seven patients share the most common name in an organization; 33% of respondents reported that 6 to 10 individuals share the most common name within their EHR systems. One-fourth of respondents reported that they have more than 11 individuals that share the same name. Over a third reported the most common patient name being shared for 6 to 10% of their patient census.

Organizational Maturity Levels

About a quarter of all domains are perceived as pervasive. That is, identity management is a core element in business models and service design, and standardization processes and mutual acceptance are established within and between organizations.

Those in a system director or director role (33%) are much more likely to report their organizations’ strategy as IT-driven for provider and professional identities domains. However, organizations with more than 1,000 employees (46%) are significantly more likely to report fragmented strategy for provider and organization identities domains.   

About Patient ID Now

Patient ID Now is a coalition of over 50 healthcare organizations representing a wide range of healthcare stakeholders committed to advancing through legislation and regulations a nationwide strategy to address patient identification. Founding members include the American College of Surgeons, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), Intermountain Healthcare and Premier Healthcare Alliance.

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