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Patient access staff at Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver rely on patient identifiers to prevent identity theft and ask for identification at every visit, whether it's a scheduled appointment or an ER visit, says Roxana Newton, CHAA, patient registration and central scheduling supervisor.
"We obtain signatures and have the patient tell us their demographic information to triple check what we have in the system," she says.
Asking the patient to verify their information is always a balancing act between patient satisfaction and security, says Newton. "Fortunately, as time has passed, the patients now expect to be asked. They have come to understand that it is for their safety," she says.
Because of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations, insurance carriers have had to assign identification numbers to patients instead of social security numbers that traditionally were used to identify patients, says Robin Ten Eyck, CHAM, director of patient access at Sound Shore Health System in New Rochelle, NY. "Patients are reluctant to give out their social security numbers," Ten Eyck says. "We have nothing to cross reference with, as the social security numbers are off the insurance cards."
Patient access staff can "never be too careful," says Ten Eyck, which means that patients are asked to provide picture IDs; insurance cards; and verbal confirmation of their date of birth, address, and telephone number. "It used to be that the patient access department took basic demographic information at face value," says Ten Eyck. "Today, everything we enter is double- and triple-checked."
Sound Shore Health Systems' patient access departments soon will implement a system that scans patient IDs into the electronic medical record for future identification of the patient, reports Ten Eyck.
Registrars cross-reference information obtained from the insurance carrier with the information given by the patient, Ten Eyck explains. Any discrepancies require further questioning by the registrar, who might ask the patient for additional forms of identification. "As appropriate, the registrar may call on their supervisor for assistance, or alert the care provider of possible aliases being used by the patient," says Ten Eyck. "If a breech occurs, security and local authorities may be called, but medical care of the individual is paramount."
At Bon Secours Richmond Health System in Mechanicsville, VA, patients are asked to bring picture identification and to verbally provide their demographic information at pre-registration. Erin D. Baggett, director of patient access, says, "This method of conversation prevents us from disclosing personal information."
When patients present to registration areas, staff don't perform the entire validation process, says Baggett. "We ask the patient to verbalize their full name and their date of birth," she says. "We then ask for their picture identification as part of our validation process. We convey to patients that our brief inquiry is to preserve the integrity of their identity."