Accurate patient identification is a cornerstone of quality healthcare delivery. Misidentification can lead to significant consequences, including incorrect diagnoses, improper treatment, and even patient harm. As the healthcare environment becomes increasingly complex, the importance of accurate patient identification methods escalates.

Current Methods of Patient Identification

Healthcare facilities predominantly use wristbands and barcode labels for patient identification. Although these methods may sound simple they play a critical role in ensuring the right patient receives the correct treatment.

To illustrate, upon admitting a patient and creating or adding to a record in the hospital’s EHR system, a wristband is issued. This is usually executed using either a laser or thermal printer with materials designed specifically for each device. The band contains essential information like the patient's name, date of birth, and a unique patient identification number or barcode. Then when treatments are prescribed, scanning the barcode allows providers to access the patient's record quickly and confirm the right patient is receiving the correct procedure or medication.

UAL offers a complete selection of admission labels and wristbands that adapt to the needs of healthcare organizations.

How Accurate Patient Identification Impacts Healthcare Organizations

Accurate patient identification impacts healthcare organizations in several ways:

  • Enhanced Patient Safety: Proper identification helps prevent medical errors such as administering incorrect medications or treatments, thereby safeguarding patients' well-being.
  • Improved Quality of Care: Accurate identification ensures that healthcare providers have the right patient history, leading to more informed and effective treatment plans.
  • Reduction in Medical Errors: By correctly identifying patients, the risk of errors in surgery, medication administration, and diagnostics is greatly reduced.
  • Compliance: Accurate patient identification helps hospitals comply with healthcare regulations and standards, which often mandate stringent patient identification protocols.
  • Efficient Resource Utilization: Correct identification reduces the need for redundant tests and procedures, optimizing resource allocation and hospital workflows.
  • Enhanced Data Integrity: Accurate patient data contributes to the reliability of electronic health records (EHRs), which is crucial for ongoing care, research, data analysis, and reimbursements.
  • Improved Patient Trust and Satisfaction: Patients are more likely to trust and be satisfied with healthcare services when they feel confident in the hospital's ability to accurately identify them and manage their care.
  • Decreased Healthcare Costs: By minimizing errors and redundant procedures, accurate patient identification can lead to significant cost savings for hospitals.
  • Facilitates Coordination of Care: Accurate identification is key in coordinating care among various departments and healthcare professionals, ensuring cohesive treatment plans.
  • Prevention of Fraud: Proper identification helps prevent healthcare fraud, such as identity theft or misuse of services, which can have legal and financial repercussions.

Role in Reducing Medical Errors

From hospitals and nursing homes to physician offices and pharmacies, patient identification mistakes can occur in every healthcare setting. Because no one on the patient’s healthcare team is immune from making a wrong patient error, the responsibility for reducing medical errors falls on physicians, nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists, transporters, and more.

The impact of patient identification failures is significant. For example,

A 2016 study classified over 7,600 out of 10,915 events from January 2013 to August 2015 as “wrong-patient events” involving patient identification¹. Factors contributing to these events included admitting a patient under another patient’s medical record, creating a duplicate record at registration², pulling the record of a patient with a name similar to the intended patient, or asking about the patient’s identity while failing to either check a patient’s identification band or ask for two acceptable forms of identification.

More recently, a summary of The Joint Commission’s sentinel event statistics found 37 patient safety events out of 436 sentinel events have occurred due to patient identification errors including surgical or invasive procedure events involving wrong patient, wrong procedure, and wrong site³.

The Impact of EHR Systems on Accurate Patient Identification

Further, information contained in or added to EHR systems also contributes to these mistakes. For example, a caregiver following proper patient identification procedures, who searches for the patient’s medical record in the EHR system, unknowingly accesses a duplicate record.

These duplicates can lead to conflicting data which can result in substandard patient care and potential treatment errors. For instance, if a physician encounters two records for the same patient, they might reference only one record for treatment decisions, which could be incomplete or incorrect.

In addition, duplicate records may cause a denial or delays of insurance claims.

How big of a problem is this for providers? Research conducted by the American Health Information Management Association showed a typical hospital experiences a 10% duplication rate.

Best Practices for Accurate Patient Identification

The Journal of AHIMA highlights six best practices for patient identification:

  1. Two-factor authentication is the industry standard for verifying patient identity such as name and date of birth, but using three or four factors such as adding home address is more effective.
  2. Asking patients to verbally state their authentication factors is more effective than having registrars ask "yes" or "no" questions to verify information.
  3. Adult patients should be required to present a driver's license or some other form of photo ID as part of the identification process.
  4. If possible, patients should read their wristbands to confirm the accuracy of their registration. Patients can also be asked to confirm the accuracy of their information on the registrar's computer screen.
  5. Healthcare organizations should consider taking photos of patients and including those images in medical records. Benefits of photographing patients include deterring medical ID fraud and helping clinicians to see that they are treating the right patient.
  6. Implement patient registration kiosks which have several benefits. They can take a patient's photo, they can match images of a patient to a photo ID or photos in a database, and they can require patients to verify their demographic information.

Compliance Mandates

The Joint Commission defines the intent of patient identification as “reliably identifying the individual as the person for whom the service or treatment is intended and to match the service or treatment to that individual”.

During diagnostics and treatment and throughout the hospital stay, verification at every step is an essential compliance requirement.

Before every procedure, test, or medication administration, healthcare providers verify the patient's identity. This is often done by checking the patient ID band and asking the patient to confirm their name and other details. Also, scanning barcodes on patient wristbands provides quick access to their records and helps to ensure the right patient is receiving the correct procedure or medication.

United Ad Label

From admission through discharge, patient care depends upon accurate patient identification. Admission labels and wristbands are a critical piece of the patient identification puzzle. For over 60 years, UAL has developed products that meet the patient identification needs of healthcare organizations, enhance patient safety and communicate important information to the medical staff. Learn more about our complete selection of products here.