Healthcare News & Insights

Keys to prevent mistakes with patient identification

Mistaken patient identity can lead to many issues in hospitals, including dangerous adverse events that jeopardize patients’ safety. To avoid these problems, facilities need to do what they can to make sure it’s easy for clinicians to identify patients. 

Once an error is entered into a patient’s record due to mistaken identity, it can be difficult to get it corrected – which increases the likelihood that more mistakes could occur. So it’s crucial to keep them from happening in the first place.

Guidelines for hospitals

According to a news release, as a way to help hospitals, the Partnership for Health IT Patient Safety, a group of healthcare stakeholders headed by ECRI Institute, has created new recommendations for using health IT to cut back on errors with patient identification.

Hospital staff at all levels, from health IT professionals to physicians, all play a role in implementing the following best practices for fewer errors due to mistaken identity:

  • Electronic fields with patient identification data should use consistent, standard identifier and naming conventions. Any abbreviations used in the patient record should be standardized and easy to understand. Fields in your hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) system should support the use of these identifiers, and the system should flag providers if an unexpected identifier is entered.
  • Use a confirmation process to match each patient with the documentation in the medical record. When treating a patient, make sure the patient’s name, date of birth, initials and medical record number match up exactly. Some EHR systems allow for the use of a patient’s photo for further confirmation. This process is especially important during shift changes and other transitions involving new members of the care team.
  • Use standard attributes and formats in all transactions. Patients’ demographic information needs to be captured in the same format across multiple departments, from billing to the lab. That makes it easier to link all of a patient’s records together.
  • Display patient data in a standard format. Identification data should be displayed in the same order (example: name first, then date of birth) across various IT systems in the hospital. It should also be shown in the same format on everything from patient wristbands to printed patient lists. That way, it’s easier for staff to see problems at a glance.
  • Include specific alerts and notification to help with proper identification. Work with IT and your EHR vendor to create custom alerts for potential identification errors, such as if a provider attempts to make a new patient record for a patient who already has a record or a glaring typo in a patient’s name. These alerts can trigger providers to double-check that they’re entering the information in correctly.

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