Well, with the nationwide vaccinations, it looks like the pandemic might finally be over for the U.S. However, while the U.S. is slowly but steadily returning to the “old normal”, it must once again look at the current issues that plague the healthcare system.
Outrageous costs, the lack of price transparency, interoperability issues, patient matching problems, ancient laws that prohibit the improvement of patient outcomes – there’s no shortage of issues. While those have been covered by virtually everyone, many overlook the impact of duplicate medical records in healthcare. That being said, let’s take a look at what are duplicates, why it’s crucial to prevent them, and some steps that help prevent duplicate creation.
Duplicate medical records in a flash
Duplicate medical records are extremely problematic but are very easy to create – which is why they are a prominent issue. When a patient has more than one medical record, there’s a duplicate in the EHR system. Since healthcare is becoming more advanced, complicated, interconnected, and digital, there are cases where duplicate medical record creation is inevitable unless the caregiver ensures positive patient identification. Unfortunately, in most healthcare facilities, patient identification is inaccurate. Also, common names and demographic characteristics don’t help either as they confuse the EHR users. But how are duplicate medical records created?
Well, when patients come for in-person visits, most caregivers ask questions to find the former’s EHR. As mentioned previously, when patients have common names, it becomes quite hard to identify the accurate medical record. The EHR user can either keep on grinding for the medical record, use the one that matches the closest, or create an entirely new one. While it might not be apparent right from the beginning, but the hospital will soon face what others are suffering from – the impact of duplicate medical records in healthcare, let’s take a look at what they actually are.
The impact of duplicate medical records
Patients receive inaccurate treatment
This one is quite self-explanatory – the patient gets misidentified, gets assigned to a duplicate medical record, and becomes a part of unfortunate events. You see, the patients are treated based on incomplete or fragmented information, and when the physician doesn’t have all the accurate information at their disposal, things are bound to go out of control. This leads to patient safety incidents, ineffective treatments, and medical errors that can be prevented only if patient identification is accurate (that itself prevents duplicate creation right from the start).
Patient data integrity is compromised
Maintaining data integrity and quality is crucial in any industry, but in healthcare, it’s absolutely the top priority – lives depend on it! This is just a crucial part of the impact of duplicate medical records in healthcare but is felt by virtually all caregivers that suffer from them.
If patient data integrity is not maintained, the patients affected by it will be facing inaccurate treatment, receive wrong test results, might be subject to unnecessarily repeated lab tests, and higher costs down the road. For instance, patient A had an untampered medical record – patient data integrity in their case was maintained. However, if there’s a duplicate against their name, then that integrity will be compromised as the data is corrupted.
Hospitals suffer from severe losses
Duplicate medical records cause several problems, one of which is denied claims. When a patient is treated with the wrong medical record, there are inconsistencies all across the board. When the entire information is sent to the insurer, the latter detects the inconsistencies and even if it’s a duplicate record, the claim is denied. Not only that, but if a patient sees that there are bills against their record, they can contact their insurer and block the payment since the patient didn’t avail the services.
While these issues demonstrate the impact of duplicate medical records in healthcare, let’s take a look at how they can be prevented.
Preventing duplicate medical records is possible
While duplicate medical records are a huge issue and might be difficult to keep track of, their prevention isn’t entirely impossible – let’s take a look at a few ways duplicate record creation can be prevented.
Take time during patient registration
One of the best ways is to prevent the environment that leads to duplicate record creation. Since duplicates are created at one of the busiest places in hospitals (registration desks), ensuring that every process receives an ample amount of time, even during surges, drastically reduces duplicate record creation.
Ensure accurate patient identification
Ensuring accurate patient identification is one of the toughest challenges faced by healthcare providers, however, many are preventing it by using innovative solutions that actually can help with it. Using such solution(s) can prevent duplicates right from the start and improve efficiency and patient safety.
Create and follow a robust patient data protection policy
Patient data protection doesn’t always mean protecting it from data breaches – it means protecting patient information from being tampered with – something which patient data corruption creates.
Having a policy in place that protects patent data should also include safeguards or strategies that prevent duplicate record creation.
Duplicate records must be prevented effectively
Duplicate medical records are nothing new and have been causing severe issues for healthcare providers and patients. However, with feasible solutions and strategies, they can be prevented – ensuring patient safety, preventing data corruption, and enhancing healthcare outcomes along the way.
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