The US healthcare system never seems to catch a break. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US (besides the rest of the world), it was already plagued with serious issues that jeopardize various aspects of healthcare. Medical identity theft, patient misidentification, the lack of price transparency, medical record errors, and the lack of interoperability are just some of the many issues.
While all of these are serious topics, the focus today will be on duplicate medical records, as many of the issues can be traced back to them. Without further ado, let’s explore what they are, how they are created, what are their consequences, and how hospitals are reducing duplicate medical records within their EHR systems.
Duplicate Medical Records
What Are Duplicate Records in the EHR Systems?
To put it simply, a duplicate medical record exists when a single patient has more than one electronic health record against their name in the system, hence the term “duplicate”.
While there are many other forms of medical record errors, such as overlays (created when two or more medical records are merged that belong to entirely different patients), duplicate records are the most common ones and are associated with several serious issues. Thus, healthcare providers are taking measures that help reducing duplicate medical records – more on that later.
While that was a summary of what duplicate records are, let’s see how they are created.
How Duplicate Records are Created
Most of the duplicates are created during the patient registration process. Since the registration desks are one of the busiest places of any given healthcare provider, it’s easy to make mistakes when the registrars need to identify patients’ medical records. Imagine this scenario – numerous patients are arriving at a hospital and the first thing that needs to be done is to identify their medical records.
Besides the aforementioned pressurizing environment, if the healthcare provider has a lower number of registrars (like most other providers) and an obsolete patient identification process, mistakes are bound to happen, leading to duplicate medical records.
Usually, most of the registration solutions have basic search functionalities. A hospital can have tens of thousands of medical records present in the EHR system, if not more. Thus, finding out the accurate records is quite a herculean task, especially if the patients have common names or demographic characteristics.
However, it’s not always the registrar’s fault. The patient might inadvertently provide different information that might make it harder to locate an accurate patient record. For instance, the name saved in the medical record is “William Johnson” but the patient might present himself as “Bill Johnson”, using the nickname.
In the end, when the registrar fails to find the accurate medical record, they are forced to create a new one, and thus, a duplicate record is created.
With “what are duplicate records” and “how are they created” out of the way, let’s dive into why healthcare providers are persistent in reducing duplicate medical records – their consequences.
The Consequences of Duplicate Medical Records
The effects of duplicate medical records can be felt even beyond the healthcare providers and patients. Other than impacting patient safety, the goodwill of the healthcare provider as well as their resources, duplicates also impact the revenue cycle in the form of denied claims due to billing and coding errors. Let’s take a closer look at how duplicates create so many issues for everyone involved.
1. Duplicates Impact Patient Safety
This one is quite straightforward – let’s look at a scenario. Duplicates consist of fragmented, inconsistent, or incomplete patient information. Thus, when a duplicate record is assigned to a patient, the treatment will be based on the wrong and/or incomplete information.
This will inevitably lead to unnecessary and repeated lab tests, delays in treatment, as well as wrong procedures due to the wrong information. Thus, patient safety and quality of healthcare will be significantly impacted.
2. Patient Data Integrity is Compromised
This is quite similar and is related to the previous point, but it deserves a different spot. Patient data integrity is maintained as long as the information within the EHRs is consistent, up to date, complete, relevant, and meaningful.
To put it simply, a single patient record must have all the previous and latest information present within itself. Duplicates hamper patient data integrity, as the patient information is distributed among the duplicate records – corrupting the patient information and making it ineffective.
3. Duplicates Lead to Denied Claims
When a patent comes to the hospital, if a duplicate record is selected for them, chances are quite high that the insurance company will deny the claim put forth by the healthcare provider due to billing and coding errors.
The insurance firm will simply see that the medical record used by the hospital doesn’t match with the one stored within their database, leading to a denied claim. These issues are quite common and they significantly impact revenue cycle management in healthcare, incurring millions in losses.
4. Duplicates Use up Valuable Resources
Most of the caregivers assign the HIM (health information management) team to fix these billing and coding errors so that the provider can once again file the claim to the insurance provider. Unfortunately, fixing these errors takes up a lot of resources. Many providers can even dedicate a significant amount of their FTEs (full-time employees) to rectify these issues – leading to lower productivity and efficiency.
However, unless duplicates are prevented at the frontend, that is, the registration process, FTEs will always have their hands full fixing these errors, leading to an endless cycle. Thus, healthcare providers must focus on reducing duplicate medical records during registration.
RightPatient Reduces Duplicates Efficiently
A robust and touchless patient identification platform, RightPatient prevents duplicate medical records right from the start. By using the patients’ photos, the platform identifies patients accurately across the continuum of care. All the patient needs to do is look at the camera – the platform provides the appropriate medical record in seconds.