How unique patient identifiers create a connected healthcare ecosystem

Knowledge may be power, but simply having information doesn’t guarantee you’ll use it effectively. Healthcare has been inundated with data, from electronic health records to wearable health and fitness devices, yet most organizations still struggle to turn that data into useful clinical intelligence.


That is due, in part, to subpar coordination among different healthcare systems. The inability to share patient data with other systems makes it difficult for providers to have all the information they need to properly care for patients. Big data in healthcare was meant to create a strong, patient-centric network of care, but that network isn’t possible while the disparity remains.


For providers, this creates a series of headaches, including lost productivity and revenue. For patients, this can negatively impact their experience, result in medical mistakes, and lead to adverse outcomes that could’ve been avoided. For both, the solution lies in giving organizations the ability to identify who patients are, no matter where their continuum of care takes them.


The patient experience within a real network


A healthcare organization’s ability to manage patient data is apparent from the beginning. An inadequate system can force patients to fill out forms they’ve already filled out multiple times or undergo duplicate tests as they travel between facilities. It can also confuse patients who have similar information, such as first and last names, during the identification process.


In an ecosystem built around a strong healthcare network, these discrepancies can be avoided. Patients are given a unique identifier that remains consistent across every healthcare facility they visit, from physicians’ offices to hospitals, pharmacies, specialists, long-term care facilities, and more. All providers that patients visit know exactly who they are.


And it isn’t just greater comfort and convenience that patients gain from a well-connected healthcare network. Managing patients and their data is vital for reducing medical errors. One 2016 Johns Hopkins study found that medical errors account for more than 250,000 deaths annually in the United States.


Healthcare efficiency within a real network


The challenge of managing patient data across the entire healthcare ecosystem hasn’t gone ignored. There are several master patient indexes that organizations can use to match patients with appropriate demographic data. Unfortunately, these still include gaps, overlaps, and outdated patient information.


These indexes can’t keep up with simple things such as name and address changes or data entry errors. Therefore, providers who rely on them have trouble matching their patients accurately. A more effective solution involves combining these data sets to create complete patient identities and profiles, where every piece of new data is instantly updated and verified.


Every authorized care team member can immediately access the updated data related to a patient’s identity, which offers benefits far beyond the patient’s treatment. For example, ValleyCare Health System in northern California was struggling with hundreds of bills being returned each month because of wrong patient addresses. When the health system implemented an identity verification program, it decreased the amount of returned mail by 90 percent.


The network effect in a nutshell


Sorting through clinical data issues takes up a great deal of providers’ time. The administrative costs of healthcare account for nearly 8 percent of U.S. healthcare expenditures. By identifying patients through unique socioeconomic factors, organizations can more efficiently and accurately manage data and put it to good use.


A healthcare network tied together by streamlined data management provides an environment where duplicate or inaccurate information is detected and corrected almost immediately. Patients are accurately identified, and their data retains its quality at every stage of care.


When combined with other patient engagement solutions, such as patient portalsdata and identity management tools create the infrastructure needed for healthcare to truly become one cohesive, patient-centric network.