Improving patient identification: a challenge, multiple benefits

The numbers are impressive: According to a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety, more than one in 100 patients are misidentified during hospital admissions, with higher rates among elderly, demented, or minority patients. Additionally, a qualitative analysis conducted on 227 Root Cause Analysis (RCA) reports from the Veterans Health Administration revealed that 182 out of 253 errors* in the audit cycle were due to incorrect patient identification.

Alix Joseph

Alix Joseph

Healthcare Global Sales & Marketing Director

I joined Linxens to actively take part to the new segment of healthcare that will transform our approach of medicine. Bringing in my expertise in medical devices, I am happy to drive and support development of new platforms and solutions in Point-of-Care, medical wearables and tracing solutions.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the National Patient Safety Agency of the United Kingdom received a significant number of 236 incidents** reports related to patient safety and near misses due to missing or mislabeled wristbands between November 2003 and July 2005.

It is now clear that accurate patient identification is a prerequisite at every stage of care, from diagnosis to discharge, encompassing all phases of treatment. An error in identification can lead to a cascade of poor decisions, including adverse drug reactions, inappropriate care protocols, and even life-threatening risks. The questions becomes urgent: how can we identify patients better?

Errors in patient identification can have several causes. On one hand, human error is a weak link, a risk that cannot be eliminated due to factors such as workload, fatigue, and each caregiver's personal focus. On the other hand, traditional (to say the least, outdated) identification methods such as barcodes, which are intended to at least partially prevent human error, lack reliability. They can be damaged or have reading errors to the extent of causing dramatic consequences such as the incorrect administration of medication, surgery in the wrong place, or inappropriate treatment.

In this context, there is an urgent need to explore various technologies, some of which are widely used in other sectors, which would be highly beneficial in the medical environment. For example, NFC technology – already widely used in the payment sector – is becoming an option to enhance patient safety through bracelets that provide access to real-time identification data. Other communication technologies will also emerge in the coming years as well. Considering that, according to the Ponemon Institute (USA), an American hospital loses an average of $17.4 million per year*** in insurance claims related to identification errors, the healthcare sector cannot afford to lag behind in this area of innovation.