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Health IT safety collaborative releases new safe practices for patient identification

Improving the accuracy of patient identification remains a challenge across all healthcare settings. In fact, the ECRI Institute recently completed its Deep Dive analysis of over 7,600 safety events related to patient identification and found that misidentifications occur during every aspect of care from registration to discharge and beyond. These errors impact patient care, treatment, and billing. And once a mistaken identity gets embedded into a record, it may be extremely difficult to eradicate.

Establishing best practices

To reduce patient misidentification, the Partnership for Health IT Patient Safety, a multi-stakeholder collaborative convened and operated by ECRI Institute, has released their second set of Safe Practice Recommendations, which are designed to improve health IT safety and build upon other work in patient identification.

The publicly available toolkit, Health IT Safe Practices: Toolkit for the Safe Use of Health IT for Patient Identification, contains eight safe practice recommendations, along with actionable resources to facilitate the implementation of these recommended safe practices.

The patient identification workgroup, chaired by Hardeep Singh, MD, MPH, from the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Baylor College of Medicine, included nearly 40 leaders from various participating collaborating organizations and provider facilities.

“Patient identification is a complex topic and our recommendations were derived using a three-pronged approach—that of catching, matching, and display,” explains Singh. “Any focus for improving patient identification methods must include (1) accurate information gathering or catching; (2) facilitation of accurate information matching; and (3) display of information to enhance patient identification.”

Following extensive review and discussion of the information, the group identified the following Safe Practice Recommendations. The resulting mnemonic encourages stakeholders to IDENTIFY:

  • INCLUDE: Electronic fields containing patient identification data should consistently use standard identifier conventions
  • DETECT: Use a confirmation process to help match the patient and the documentation
  • EVALUATE: Use standard attributes and attribute formats in all transactions to improve matching
  • NORMALIZE: Use a standard display of patient attributes across the various systems
  • TAILOR: Include distinguishing information enhancing identification on screens printouts, and those areas that require interventions
  • INNOVATE: Integrate new technologies to facilitate and enhance identification
  • FOLLOW-UP: Implement monitoring systems to readily detect identification errors
  • YIELD: Include high-specificity active alerts and notifications to facilitate proper identification

Says ECRI Institute’s Lorraine Possanza, DPM, JD, MBE, program director, “I hope the toolkit will stimulate discussions about safe practices for the use of technology in patient identification, help facilitate implementation of the safe practices, and build a foundation for additional work in this area.”

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