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Can Smartphones Fix the Patient-Matching Problem?

In many ways, typos, similar names and other simple errors are impeding accurate patient matching for providers everywhere. However, what looks like a simple error can also have very real consequences.The registration process is where patient identification errors often begin and can initiate a cascade of errors, including wrong-site surgery, delayed or lost diagnoses, and wrong patient orders, among others. These errors not only impact medical practices and care in hospitals and other healthcare organizations, but incorrect or ineffective patient matching can have ramifications well beyond a healthcare organization’s four walls.

Inaccurate patient matching is prevalent across the healthcare industry. A 2016 report from the Ponemon Institute and Imprivata showed that 86 percent of the participants had “witnessed or known of a medical error that was the result of patient misidentification.” As per a new study from think tank RAND Corporation and Pew Charitable Trusts, a tool (AI and blockchain have failed to help) in the pocket of nearly every patient that could help to fix the problem is the smartphone.

According to the report released in August 2018, smartphones and mobile phones could offer a promising approach to patient matching if used appropriately. Patients could use apps during check-in to approve and update their information and providers could “verify” patients’ mobile phone numbers.

Tools and methods that allow an individual’s mobile phone or smartphone to be used for improving medical record matching among different health providers appear to be particularly promising for a patient-empowered approach to the problem. However, these methods will require development and testing. Additionally, these tools won’t solve the patient-matching issue alone. It requires an industrywide change to make more engaged with their medical information.

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