Identifying a wrong patient isn’t anything new, unfortunately. In fact, it has been occurring frequently in U.S. hospitals and health systems for years. Patient misidentification creates a plethora of issues for healthcare providers, their patients, and even the families of patients. This is precisely why improving patient identification has been one of the patient safety goals set by the Joint Commission over the years.
But what exactly are the consequences of identifying the patients inaccurately? Let’s take a look at the most common issues, how patient identification errors in hospitals might cause deaths, and how they can be prevented.
Why hospitals must prevent identifying the wrong patient
Patient misidentification has several consequences, and once it starts in a healthcare facility, there are high chances that it will just keep on occurring. Let’s take a look at the most common consequences of patient misidentification.
1. Patient misidentification leads to medical record mix-ups
This is the consequence where, if one misidentification occurs, then it might very well lead to many more down the line, like a chain reaction of sorts.
It’s quite simple – when the patient comes in for a visit, they are assigned the wrong medical record due to patient misidentification.
However, there are other forms of medical records known as duplicates or overlays.
When the EHR user cannot find the accurate medical record, they create an entirely new one, essentially creating a duplicate in the EHR system. Overlays, on the other hand, are far more lethal – it’s basically the merging of EHRs of two different patients, and this occurs for poor patient identification too.
As can be understood, medical record errors are quite dangerous, and they lead to patient care going downhill. The patients involved receive the wrong medication, mistreatment, and more. Believe it or not, but there’s an even bigger problem caused by patient mix-ups – the wrong patient might end up getting the wrong surgery! However, we’ll discuss more on transplant mix-ups due to patient misidentification later.
2. Patient identification errors lead to data integrity issues
When patients are misidentified and are assigned the wrong medical records, then their information will be fed into those EHRs, rendering them fragmented, inconsistent, and inaccurate. When the actual patient comes to the hospital, their EHR will be riddled with errors, leading to wrong treatment, unless these issues are detected in advance.
Hospitals have to deal with a lot of inaccurate medical records that are created because of data integrity issues – fixing these errors takes a lot of time, effort, and resources. Not only that, but if these aren’t fixed quickly, then the patients will be receiving the wrong treatment and procedures, which takes us to our next point.
3. Patient identification errors jeopardize patient safety
This one is quite natural – it might have been evident since we mentioned it at the beginning of the article. As patient identification errors lead to wrong treatment, they hamper patient care and create patient safety incidents – incidents that are very much preventable.
4. Patient identification errors can even cause transplant mix-ups
One of the most dangerous consequences of patient misidentification is that it can create patient mix-ups during surgeries – something that can be devastating.
Just a few days ago, a hospital in Ohio gave the wrong patient a kidney via transplant – someone else was supposed to receive it. Thankfully, the kidney in question was compatible with the patient who received it, who is now slowly recovering. While the hospital was tight-lipped about the matter, the case does look like a patient mix-up – something that has happened before.
Back at the end of 2019, a New Jersey Hospital had made the same mistake – it provided a different patient with a kidney due to wrong patient identification. Once again, fortunately, the kidney was compatible and the patient was out of serious danger. The actual patient who was supposed to have the transplant received it several days later.
Transplant mix-ups can be extremely dangerous – these are just some very lucky cases where the patients have survived. Unfortunately, not all surgery mix-up patients get to see the light of day.
Patient identification errors are dangerous but preventable
However, patient misidentification, along with its consequences, is preventable with accurate patient identification. In fact, many healthcare providers are utilizing different solutions, strategies, and platforms to accurately identify their patients at any touchpoint across the care continuum.
Accurately identifying patients has several benefits such as improving patient safety, preventing patient record errors, transplant mix-ups, and more. As a result, ensuring proper patient identification should be much higher on the priority list of hospitals and health systems.
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