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Outdated processes for patient ID must stop Adopt new strategies
(Editor's Note: This is a two-part series on patient identification processes used by patient access departments. Inside, we cover processes used to verify a patient's identity, the expected impact of healthcare reform, and how to involve patients in the process. Next month, we'll report on new biometric technology being implemented by a growing number of hospitals.)
Identity theft and privacy protection are "the two cornerstones of today's patient access environment," according to Robin Ten Eyck, CHAM, director of patient access at Sound Shore Health System in New Rochelle, NY.
However, it was a challenge to create a process to comply with the Federal Trade Commission's Red Flags Rule, which requires hospital to implement programs to detect and prevent identity theft, while remaining "patient-friendly," according to Sherri Pitkin, associate director of patient access management at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.
"We worked on the processes for quite some time before implementing our approach," says Pitkin. "We contacted our neighboring hospitals to discuss their thoughts and progress on procedures." Some had implemented new processes, and they shared what worked and didn't work for them, says Pitkin. Others still were in the developmental stage.
Identity theft is always a concern, says Roxana Newton, CHAA, patient registration and central scheduling supervisor for Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver. "Patient access is the first to greet the patient," Newton says. "It is up to us to make sure we have the correct patient and medical record number, for each and every person seen in the hospital."
This step is vital for patient care and prevents the wrong person from receiving the patient's bill, Newton says. "Our current process is very accurate to prevent identity theft. But as times change, so do thieves' strategies," Newton says. "As technology improves every year, so does our fight against identity theft."
Implementing standardized procedures regarding verification of patient identity keeps risks low, according to Erin D. Baggett, director of patient access for Bon Secours Richmond Health System in Mechanicsville, VA. "As the possibility of identity theft increases, so does our awareness," Baggett adds.
In the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics' emergency department, patient access staff check identities after medical triage, reports Pitkin.
"The IDs will soon be scanned and attached to the patient's account," she says. "The ID will be retrievable for anyone checking the patient into a clinic, admitting the patient, or registering the patient."
Staff flag the patient's account if identity theft might have occurred, adds Pitkin. "Patients with no insurance or in this country illegally have used another person's ID, insurance information or residency information," she reports.
In other cases, patients didn't want diagnostic tests in their medical record so they used a friend's ID, and patients with outstanding warrants have used an alias, says Pitkin. "We receive phone calls from patients that experienced identity theft elsewhere or believe that someone is trying to get their information, and want to be sure we have their account flagged," she adds.
The flag notifies employees to ask for additional security identifiers before checking the patient in or before giving information to the patient or patient's family, she says. "Our hospital security and our compliance department are notified of any suspicions," says Pitkin. "Security is prompted to investigate, resolve, and make further notifications to the appropriate parties."
Patient access staff at Porter Adventist scan in a copy of the patient's drivers license or photo ID card and attach it to their account, which provides a visual record of the patient, says Newton. "This is for the lifetime of the medical record number. We ask for it, if we see it has not been presented," says Newton. "With this tool, we can catch drug seekers checking in the ER using someone else's name, because now we have a picture to compare."
A "forms fast" program is being implemented to electronically capture signatures on all forms, reports Newton. "Amazingly, the pens used for this new program actually acquire the pressure used to sign by the patient!" she says.
The program automatically pulls up the forms which need to be signed, based on the type of registration and insurance information entered by the registrar, adds Newton. "If a Medicare patient is being admitted as an inpatient, the Medicare Rights form will instantly pop up to be signed," she says. "Now, nothing will ever be missed that needs to be signed."
For more information on patient identification processes used by patient access departments, contact:
Erin D. Baggett, Director of Patient Access, Bon Secours Richmond Health System, Mechanicsville, VA. Phone: (804) 764-6152. E-mail: Erin_baggett@bshsi.org.
Roxana Newton, CHAA, Patient Access Supervisor, Porter Adventist Hospital, Denver. Phone: (303) 765-6545. Fax: (303) 778-2424. E-mail: RoxanaNewton@Centura.org.
Sherri Pitkin, Associate Director, Patient Access Management, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, IA. Phone: (319) 353-8809. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robin Ten Eyck, CHAM, Director of Patient Access, Sound Shore Health System, New Rochelle, NY. Phone: (914) 365-3745. Fax: (914) 633-3140. E-mail: email@example.com.