Ask the experts: positive patient identification

Proper patient identity management is increasingly ranked as one of the top priorities for mitigating healthcare risk, as inaccurate patient identification compromises the integrity of patient information, creating massive patient safety and financial risks for healthcare providers.

To help providers address the clinical and financial risks associated with improper patient identity management, Imprivata recently held a webinar on how healthcare organizations are deploying technologies to enhance positive patient identification. Moderated by Christy Murfitt, Imprivata Vice President of Product Marketing, the panel featured:


  • Jim Schwamb, former VP, Patient Financial Services at BayCare Health System in Clearwater, FL,
  • Dr. Sean Kelly, Imprivata’s CMO and a practicing medical doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA.

The panelists discussed the impact of medical identify theft, which has increased by 22% year over year, and highlighted the adverse effects that inaccurate patient information and outdated patient identifiers can have on quality of care. Inaccurate data not only compromises patient safety, it also has a negative impact on healthcare organizations’ revenue cycles.

According to Schwamb and Dr. Kelly, it is extremely difficult for providers to identify errors among the thousands of data points on medical charts. Even when providers are aware that a chart contains incorrect patient information, due to fraud or clinical error, it is complicated and time consuming to report, and clean up, such errors.

Based on his experience, Schwamb said, “if your patient ID data is wrong, then every provider downstream has the same bad ID data…That’s a mess. And to undo [the bad data] once you find it, takes many, many man hours.” He added, “health systems spend significant time doing cleanups every year. But once you’ve cleaned it up, it starts getting dirty again if you don’t have a way of getting it right at the beginning of the process.”

Rather than spend the time and money to identify and clean up bad data, healthcare providers may create a new, duplicate medical record for a patient, or overlay a patient’s data into an existing record of another patient. This leads to further misidentification downstream, which is more costly, more inefficient, and can result in an adverse medical event six percent of the time.

According to Schwamb, “When you create a new medical record, what you have effectively done is negated the investment in your electronic medical record system.”

Dr. Kelly addressed the importance of ascertaining proper patient information at the start of medical care. “Having technology that tells you who the patient is and attaches them to the correct record is priceless,” he said. “The value can’t be quantified.”

To address patient misidentification issues in his hospital system, Schwamb made the decision to implement Imprivata PatientSecure, the biometric patient identification solution. “The implementation was flawless. It was something we were very surprised with. The benefits just keep coming. The Imprivata PatientSecure palm vein biometric system works so well.”

Schedule a demo to learn more about Imprivata PatientSecure.