A number of providers have turned to smart cards to solve the patient ID problem.
"It looks like a credit card, but it actually has a memory chip in the card," says Lawrence Carbonaro, director of patient access, purchasing, and HIM at Memorial Hospital, a 25-bed critical access hospital in North Conway, N.H. "You also have the patient's photo on the card, so when a patient presents anywhere [in the hospital], they have to have the card." A card swipe opens up the correct patient's EHR. "We have not had instances of anybody with a card where we've misidentified them by pulling the wrong medical record," Carbonaro says.
If patients forget their card, they can still register once they provide answers to pertinent questions. When it was installed in 2009, accompanied by smoother workflow processes, Memorial Hospital was about to reduce its headcount by 6.5 full-time equivalents, Carbonaro says.
Larger systems are also opting for smart cards. The Nashville-based Vanguard Health Systems operates in cities such as San Antonio, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, and Phoenix. A few of the company's markets are using LifeMedID, the same smart card technology Memorial Hospital uses, with plans to expand to other markets.
Since deploying the smart cards a year ago, nearly 22,000 patients in ambulatory service settings between the two Texas cities of San Antonio and New Braunfels use it, while Vanguard builds a new hospital in town, reaping the benefits of less overhead needed for ID matching, says Roderick Bell III, CIO of Resolute Health, a clinical integrated health and wellness enterprise owned by Vanguard that currently has a network of 150 physicians.
"I've been working with Life-MedID for maybe a year and a half, and I haven't had one duplicate record," Bell says. "I haven't had one patient identity theft, and I'm here in south Texas, where that happens a lot."
Vanguard is integrating LifeMedID technology with its EHR with the help of Allscripts, the EHR vendor, Bell says. "They love the idea that there's a card that will allow them their one-source solution, their Sunrise solution, meaning that there's one record in ambulatory, there's one record in acute care, throughout home health—everything is on one record. This card takes that to another level," he says.