What’s in a name? For healthcare organizations, patient identity is a struggle

Most healthcare executives say they’re worried inaccurate patient data is hurting outcomes and costing them money. The CEO of Verato says it’s something leaders must address.

In a sense, the healthcare industry is having an identity crisis.

Healthcare organizations are increasingly concerned about the accuracy of patient data, including the identity of patients. It’s a problem that affects patient care and the finances of healthcare organizations, said Clay Ritchey, CEO of Verato, a Virginia-based software company. Verato provides a cloud identity platform for healthcare companies so they can get a full view of their patients.

“The problem that drives everything else in healthcare is knowing who is who,” Ritchey said in an interview with Chief Healthcare Executive.

Healthcare organizations said they are worried about the accuracy of patient data. Roughly 3 out of 4 (72%) healthcare executives said they are worried inaccurate patient data is affecting patient outcomes and their finances, according to a recent survey by Sage Growth Partners that was commissioned by Verato.

Only 14% of those surveyed said they were “extremely satisfied” with the accuracy of their patient data, even though 75% of executives said patient identity is important to improving care management. And 88% of executives who participated in the survey said patient identity is important to improving the patient experience.

“It’s not surprising to me that people are talking about identity being so critical,” Ritchey said. He said healthcare organizations need to “coordinate care so you have a patient journey that’s seamless.”

Ritchey said it’s not uncommon for healthcare organizations to have multiple variations of a patient’s name in their records. Perhaps a patient uses a nickname, or signs in with just an initial, or a name is simply misspelled. With multiple variations of an individual’s name, it’s all too easy for organizations to get the incorrect identity of a patient.

The federal government has been spurring healthcare providers to move toward interoperability and the easy exchange of data with other providers, payers and patients. “The reality is it’s hard to do that and realize that full potential if you don’t understand identity and who that data belongs to,” Ritchey said.

Industry leaders have long pushed healthcare to more toward interoperability. The Council on Affordable Quality Healthcare, an organization aiming to streamline healthcare, said movement toward interoperability is critical in continuing progress on telehealth and handling more administrative duties electronically.

Ritchey said the momentum toward interoperability is growing.

"There’s now a reimbursement model for telehealth and digital health. That didn’t exist before," Ritchey said.

Increasingly, consumers are demanding more convenience from healthcare providers, including the ability to go online to schedule appointments and pay bills.

Healthcare organizations need to accept the reality that consumers are demanding more, Ritchey said.

“When you deal with a pandemic and are trying to deliver care in the right way, you have to have a digital strategy to do so. If you want to engage consumers, you have to have a digital strategy,” Ritchey said.

More healthcare organizations are making progress, Ritchey said. “We’re past the point of return,” he said. “Digital transformation and interoperability and transforming the patient experience, it’s here and now.”

With better information, consumer satisfaction rises and patients have a better chance of having a better outcome. That can help providers retain patients and can lead to higher reimbursements, Ritchey said.

As more healthcare organizations aim to bolster their digital operations, Verato is poised for success, Ritchey said. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, Ritchey said Verato’s growth has met his expectations.

“We’ve grown exponentially since the pandemic,” he said.