Mastering Patient Identification: Ways to Prevent Errors in Healthcare Management

Sasha Andrieiev
5 min readMar 5, 2024


In a healthcare landscape where patient safety is critical, concerns over patient identification loom large. Misidentification of patients poses challenges due to factors like misspellings, address changes, and name variations. According to the PSQH report, patient record-matching accuracy can drop to 80% within a care setting and as low as 50% across organizations sharing electronic health information.

Addressing patient misidentification presents a critical opportunity for healthcare providers to enhance patient safety and reduce medical errors. For identity management solution vendors, offering innovative technologies positions them as valuable partners in ensuring accurate patient identification.

If you’re a vendor having doubts about what tech stack to offer or a healthcare provider struggling with patient identification errors, this article is for you. Keep reading to find out what dangers patient misidentification may pose, ways to correct those errors, and types of identity technologies to implement.

Why Wrong Patient Identification Is a Critical Issue

While technology has transformed healthcare operations, patient identification hurdles persist. Inefficiencies, outdated processes, and the complexity of managing diverse patient data contribute to the ongoing challenge of ensuring accurate identification. The consequences of patient misidentification can be severe, including compromised patient safety, medical errors, and challenges in delivering effective and personalized healthcare.

Patient misidentification can occur through various mechanisms, often stemming from system inconsistencies and human errors. Understanding these factors is crucial for implementing effective prevention strategies:

  • Duplicate records: the creation of duplicate patient records, often caused by system glitches or incomplete integration of healthcare databases, can lead to confusion, misidentification, and extra costs (up to $1,000 per duplicated record and about $95 to correct the information);
  • Basic identifiers: healthcare systems relying solely on basic identifiers like names and birthdates are more susceptible to misidentification. The lack of robust biometric authentication or unique patient identifiers increases the risk of errors;
  • Inconsistent data entry: inaccuracies during data entry contribute to patient misidentification, especially in manual record-keeping systems;
  • Lack of standardization: inconsistencies in naming conventions, identification protocols, and data formats across different healthcare systems and facilities can result in misidentification during information exchange;
  • Patient transfers or admissions: during patient transfers between departments or facilities, as well as during admission processes, miscommunication or inadequate verification procedures can lead to errors in patient identification.

Why Prevent Patient Misidentification: Real-Life Stories

The consequences of patient misidentification can be grave, leading to severe consequences for both patients and healthcare providers. Examining real-life examples of incident reports in healthcare may help prevent identification issues.

An incident report by Patient Safety Network states that two patients of similar age and with similar head and facial injuries were mixed up in the emergency department. Orders for CT scans were mistakenly performed under the wrong patient’s name leading to incorrect results in both patients’ charts. Additionally, a CT of the abdomen and pelvis, intended for patient A, was performed on patient B. Only upon realizing the inconsistencies did the ED team correct the error by appropriately carrying out the necessary CT scan on Patient A and relabeling all results accurately.

The situation could have been worse if they hadn’t recognized the issue on time. The patients, receiving inaccurate CT scan results, might have undergone unnecessary and potentially harmful treatments based on incorrect medical information.

Another case states that a 21-year-old woman was discovered wearing an ID band belonging to a 60-year-old male during an EKG. The ID band had been mistakenly placed on her wrist by a triage nurse. Had the wristband gone unnoticed, the young woman’s health condition could have been under threat because of medical procedures intended for an older man.

Both cases underscore the importance of accurate patient identification in healthcare settings to prevent errors and ensure patient safety.

How Correct Patient Identification Helps Achieve Your Strategic Goals

Accurate patient identification is a fundamental pillar for achieving business goals in healthcare. The ability to correctly identify patients not only impacts immediate care delivery but also plays a pivotal role in shaping the broader objectives of healthcare organizations.

Enhanced Patient Safety

Accurate patient identification significantly reduces the risk of medical errors, ensuring that each patient receives the right care, medications, and treatments. This directly aligns with the strategic goal aimed at elevating patient safety and minimizing adverse events, reinforcing trust in healthcare delivery.

Data Accuracy

Accurate patient identification ensures reliable health data. Strategic initiatives, like data-driven decision-making and outcomes analysis, depend on precise patient information for better healthcare delivery and continuous improvement.

Efficient Care Delivery

By streamlining patient identification processes, healthcare providers can enhance operational efficiency. Quick and accurate identification facilitates seamless workflows, reducing time spent on administrative tasks and allowing healthcare professionals to focus on delivering timely and effective care.

Patient Experience Enhancement

Accurate identification is integral to personalized and patient-centered care. This aligns with strategic goals aimed at improving the overall patient experience, fostering trust, and ensuring that patients feel recognized and valued within the healthcare system.

Compliance with Regulatory Standards

Meeting regulatory requirements, such as the ones outlined by HIPAA, is a strategic imperative for healthcare organizations. Precise patient identification supports compliance efforts, safeguarding patient privacy and avoiding potential legal consequences.

Effective Health Management

For organizations aspiring to enhance population health management, accurate patient identification is paramount. It ensures that health data is appropriately aggregated and analyzed, enabling targeted interventions and improved outcomes across diverse patient populations.

Interoperability and Information Exchange

As healthcare systems strive for increased clinical interoperability, accurate patient identification becomes pivotal. It enables seamless information exchange between disparate systems contributing to comprehensive and connected healthcare delivery.

Financial Sustainability

Correct patient identification contributes to billing accuracy and reimbursement processes. Healthcare organizations can achieve financial sustainability by preventing revenue loss due to errors in patient identification and associated billing procedures.

Employing Strategies to Minimize Patient Misidentification

Patient misidentification poses significant risks to both individual health outcomes and the overall efficiency of healthcare systems. However, there are effective strategies that healthcare providers can employ to minimize the occurrence of patient misidentification incidents and ensure patient safety.

Read the full article on the Jelvix blog.



Sasha Andrieiev

CEO & Co-founder at Jelvix | Digital Leader| Innovation Expert |