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Impact of Duplicate Medical Records in Healthcare Industry: Risks and Challenges

Vlad Vakser Vlad Vakser | December 30, 2020 | 10 min

In this article, we are going to concentrate solely on the problem of duplicate records in healthcare: what they are, why the issue of duplicate record creation exists, what the risks are, how to get rid of the problem, and who can help you with it. After the reading, you will be able to address the issue with facts and start working on solving the problem of duplicate medical records and overlays.

What Are Duplicate Medical Records? 

As the research conducted by the American Health Information Management Association showed, a typical hospital experiences a 10% duplication rate. The percentage of duplicate medical records is growing rapidly in the medical field as more healthcare facilities adopt EHRs. In order to understand how to fix the issue, let’s learn about its roots.  

Duplicate medical records are defined as numerous records of one person. For example, a person might have visited the hospital several times, and every time they got a new profile because workers could not find the previous record. 

Another issue that is quite different from this one is record overlays. Record overlays emerge when the information of one patient is overlapping with the record of the other person with the same name. So the final record contains fragments of information about each person. The main cause of this problem is that there might be several people with the same names in one city and hospital personnel can confuse them. 

The issues of duplicate medical records and record overlays are both important to address. And the chief executive officer of eHealth Initiative Foundation, Jennifer Covich Bordenick, has rightly noticed: “As the number of players and organizations in the medical space continue to expand rapidly, patient matching is even more important”. So in the article, we are going to identify the root causes of duplicate medical records problem and offer effective ways to solve it. 

Source: healthcareittoday.com  

Who or What Is to Blame for Duplicate Medical Records? 

There are at least 4 causes of duplicate records and records overlays, so let’s take a closer look at each of them. 

  • Human mistake 
  • Absence of record standardization 
  • Change in information 
  • Patients do not have enough information in their record 

Human Mistake 

People make mistakes – we are not some kind of machine that does everything automatically. Tiredness, lack of time, and other daily aspects of life affect the way we work and the efficiency of the process. In fact, according to the National Patient Misidentification Report, 32% of patient misidentification is caused by human errors during the registration process. 

Absence of Record Standardization 

Different medical facilities utilize different systems to store and track patients’ records. Therefore, when a patient comes to another hospital and a worker is trying to find the record filling out the form that differs from the first hospital`s form, it is harder to find the match without the help of any matching algorithm.

Change in Information 

People tend to move, change their last names after marriage, buy new phone numbers. Consequently, when you try to find a record and put Atlanta for someone who has originally Oregon in their record because they have lived there when it was created, you are unlikely to find your perfect match.  

Patients Do Not Have Enough Information in Their Record 

If the record is not full or the initial record contained too little information, you will have to browse through hundreds of records in order to locate the needed patient.  

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Risks of Duplicate Medical Records and Overlays in Healthcare

The impact of duplicate medical records in healthcare is huge and affects everyone and everything: patients, personnel, facilities budget, and workflow. While numerous healthcare units think that it is easier to ignore the duplicates than fix them, they do not know how they actually slowly kill the system themselves. Let’s take a look at why medical records and overlays should be fixed immediately.  

Costs of Duplicates 

The percentage of duplicates within one hospital is 5-10% and five duplicates per day result in a $78.000 loss per year. Why so much? It has several hidden costs: 

Repeated Care 

If an employee could not find the record in a system, they have to make a new one which means they have to once again find out all the allergies and run necessary tests. A facility could have escaped the costs of these tests if they have found the previous record. 

Moreover, you may also use the medication that was used before and did not work for that patient at all. If you have had their medical history, you would not have to waste medication and time. 

Denied Insurance Claims 

If you have to write an insurance appeal to reimburse the medical expenses, it may cost you time and money. Providing inaccurate patient information can result in rejection, which adds up to the enormous sum of $262 billion that hospitals need annually in order to manage denial claims.

Add patient identification errors in this and you will be shocked by the total sum.

Source: experian.com  

Patient Lives 

Both record overlays and duplicate records can threaten the life of the patient.  

With record overlays, the patient may have an intolerance to some medications but it is not written in the record: the owner of the initial record does not have any allergy at all. Overlays may also include false lab results and medical history. 

When it comes to duplicates, you will not know anything about the patient at all: you need to find what treatment works for them, what blood type they have, etc. What if a patient does not have time to wait for the test results? It is another life wasted because there is an incorrect patient record. 

Stressed Personnel 

It is simply annoying when you have to choose between two identical records in order to find out later that they are the same person. Personnel spends too much time choosing the right record. They may help another patient in the time that they spend on matching the records in the system or save precious time that not every patient has. In the end, they may just create the new one to save time. This vicious cycle will never stop if overlays and duplicates exist.  

Additionally, merging duplicate medical records will kill time for the employees as well so it is easier to prevent the appearance of inaccurate records than correcting them afterward.

How to Get Rid of Duplicate Medical Records and Overlays? 

Now that you know how expensive duplicate medical records and overlays are and how dreadful their results can be, it is natural to want to know how to fix the problem of duplicate EHR records. Technology can certainly help, as the data management industry has a long track record of identifying duplicates and helping to match and merge them. Now it’s time to discuss the steps that could help the hospital solve the issue of duplicate medical records.

#1 Pay Attention to the Data Quality 

Take Time to Find the Right Record 

As we have mentioned before, duplicates and overlays are the consequence of impatience. Medical workers do not take their time to actually look through the profiles or insert more information. Creating a new record seems to be much quicker but all the tests and denial claims are telling otherwise. According to a survey, 66% of leaders at provider and HIE organizations believe that data entry errors cause significant amounts of data duplication in healthcare facilities.

Healthcare entities might consider developing a custom technological system that would help personnel find the right records in less time and would not allow creating a new record without conducting a previous check of the available ones. Langate has deep expertise in developing BI solutions for healthcare that can help solve the problem of data duplication. Feel free to contact us if you want to utilize the power of modern technology not to suffer from duplicates and data overlays ever again.

Use Unique Patient Identifiers 

Creating a unique patient identifier is one of the first steps to approach the process of data deduplication. Relying on names, addresses, or dates of bright is not always enough to find the right record. However, assigning the unique identifier to each patient can simplify the process of finding his profile in the system and prevent data duplicates in a long run.

Put in the Right Information  

Spelling problems have a great impact on healthcare and it is literally impossible for the next person to find the file if you misspelled someone’s last name. Ask your patients to spell the information for you so that you do not put wild guesses in the record. Utilizing special technological solutions can simplify the process of filling the form with the correct information and detect potential errors.

#2 Standardize the Record as Much as You Can 

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the need to modernize and standardize the U.S. public health data system. The American health care facilities rely on outdated systems that can’t serve the current needs of the industry. So in August 2020, congressman Scott Peters introduced a bill whose goal is to create and enforce a common standard system for all public health information.

Such standardization would help to aggregate the patient data in one system, so it can be used to track and improve the quality of public health. Using a unified system across all healthcare facilities could significantly reduce the number of duplicate records.

#3 Utilize Biometric Technology 

You can have thousands of similar names and addresses but biometric data such as iris scan or fingerprint is solely individual. Moreover, people may change their demographic information but it is literally impossible to change the biometric information. Using biometrics-based solutions available on the market or developing a custom one can significantly reduce the number of identification mistakes.

A biometric system compares a captured biometric template with a biometric template in the system. After conducting a comparison it simply accepts or rejects the submitted claim of identity. Biometrics is a step into a new era of identity and access management, however, it still requires backend patient record matching. So hospitals also need to have a high-quality record matching technology, that collects, stores, and retrieves when needed the data of a particular patient.

As you see, one of the solutions is to educate your employees, so that the creation of new duplicates can be avoided. However, the best way to prevent duplicate records and improve patient data integrity is to use the power of modern technology. Combining biometrics with a record matching technology can help hospitals overcome such challenges as the absence of data standardization, lack of information, and human mistake.

Do you consider using modern technology to conquer the problem of data duplication?
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Our Experience 

Langate worked with one of the clients on the problem of duplicate medical records. The client helps numerous healthcare facilities around the US to perform better. They addressed the problem of duplicates, overlays, and typos on medical records to us, and we found a custom solution for them.

Langate focused on a better matching system and data normalization. From this point on, all the typos are reported immediately to the responsible party, and data is analyzed automatically for better matching.

The significant decrease in the amount of time needed to manually maintain patients records was one of the main achievements of this project. Moreover, after implementing the system developed by Langate, no additional training for the employees was required. So now hospitals personal can focus on what really matters, and the technology takes care of everything else.

Conclusion  

Duplicate records and overlays are a huge problem in healthcare. Human mistakes, ununified forms, and lack of change of information are the main factors that cause duplicates.

Sadly enough, most hospitals ignore the data duplicity issue but it has a huge impact on patients, employees, finances, and the overall workflow of the hospital. If we do not try to prevent duplication and overlaying, we will be stuck in the vicious cycle forever.

You have different ways to prevent duplicate medical records: you can teach your personnel how to prevent new duplicates and overlayers, you can use biometric technology that saves time and lives, or develop a custom record matching system with Langate. Book a free consultation with our team to discuss your case in more detail and find the best suitable solution for you! Fixing the duplicate records issue is easier than you think!

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