The importance of identifying patients correctly

Although it may seem obvious, reality shows us that countless medical errors occur in the health system, many of them irreversible, due to mistakes in patient identification, which puts patient safety at risk throughout the entire healthcare process, from diagnosis  to treatment.

According to a study carried out by the Ponemon Institute, an American organization dedicated to privacy policy, data protection and information security, 86% of those surveyed claimed to know of a case of medical error resulting from incorrect patient identification. This data is in line with the result of a survey carried out by the American Hospital Association in 2017, which concludes that 45% of large American hospitals reported difficulties in rigorously identifying patients and exchanging health information between public and private hospitals due to existing legislative limitations. These complications increase the chances of misdiagnosis, unsafe treatment and duplicate testing, which not only impacts on patient safety but also on health costs (about $6 billion in the US).

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of ensuring that patients are accurately matched to their medical records, but the problem of patient misidentification persists, jeopardizing patient safety and the effective response of the public health system.

To make this problem visible and bring it to the United States Senate, six medical organizations have created the organization Patient ID Now, with the objective of expediting legislation that regulates a national strategy to address the problem of patient identification in this country by advocating for the creation of a unique health identifier for individuals. The first step in achieving this will be the elimination of section 510 of the Labor, Health and Education Appropriations Bill that will allow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the flexibility to work with the private sector to develop an efficient national patient identification strategy.

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