COVID-19 and the Latest Patient Identity Management Methods
In simple terms, patient identity management refers to the way patients are identified in healthcare institutions, such as hospitals or pharmacies. However, identity management has become a major challenge due to the rising levels of fraud. Lack of robust patient identity management methods results in disastrous consequences for not just the healthcare providers, but for insurance companies and patients as well.
On one hand, healthcare institutions incur fines and penalties for facilitating incorrect medical treatments, while on the other, the patient’s health and safety are put at risk. While there are various patient identity management solutions available today, the COVID-19 pandemic brought along a wave of sophisticated techniques used by criminals for carrying out fraudulent activities.
In this article, we will take a deeper dive into the security issues in healthcare, how patient identification errors take place, and the future of patient identity management considering today’s COVID-19 ridden world.
Patient Identification Errors
Errors during the patient identification process have always taken place. In the previous years, the major reason behind such errors was manual methods of verifying the patient’s age, treatment, and medical history. Record mix-ups were common as traditional methods were tedious and required medical records to be stored in storage rooms. Similar names, ages, addresses, etc. can have dangerous implications. Earlier, patient record mix-ups were the main reason when paper medical records were used.
Fortunately, technological advancements within this field have led healthcare institutions to minimize such incidents with the help of AI-powered patient identity management solutions. Where before human errors and negligence by the institution were quite prevalent, patient identification can now be accurately managed through fully automated systems designed specifically to cater to the needs of the healthcare sector.
Medical Identity Theft
Medical identity theft involves the unauthorized use of another patient’s data and medical records to execute medical fraud. Typically, stolen patient identity records are used to gain access to someone else’s healthcare benefits, prescription drugs, insurance, or are simply sold on the dark web.
A single stolen patient identity can result in fatal consequences as it causes the medical history to be distorted, leading to incorrect treatments being administered. Additionally, this can also damage the reputation of the medical institution on top of facing hefty fines and penalties levied by regulatory authorities.
Common Patient Identification Strategies
The Conventional Method
The most common method of patient identification is simply asking the patient questions. Even in today's day and age, numerous hospitals are utilizing this method. Within this, patients are asked to submit their full names, age, addresses, and other relevant personal information to have their identity verified by cross-matching it against existing medical records.
This process is now being recognized as time-consuming, tedious, and also fatal as an imposter can pretend to be someone else just by gaining access to their personal information.
Healthcare identity thefts and data breaches are considerably prevalent, and criminals are known to steal patient data only to trade it later on the dark web or the black market. Therefore, this outdated method is being replaced by a better alternative in the form of fully automated AI-powered patient identity verification solutions.
Another method used by healthcare providers for patient identification by using patient identifiers such as colored ID wristbands. Although this technique is a better alternative for patient identity management, it has its own set of flaws. For example, patient ID wristbands can be stolen, misused, lost, or transferred - all of which can lead to medical identity theft. On top of this, wristbands require contact – an act hospitals and patients are not fond of given the COVID-19 pandemic. Virus control has always been a challenging task for providers, but the global pandemic has made it an even greater concern for the public. It is expected that over the next few years, individuals will be quite reluctant to using touch-based verification methods, particularly within hospitals.
Biometric-based Patient Identity Management
This brings us to biometric technology and its ability to offer touch-less verification in the form of facial recognition and iris/retina scans. Biometric verification is far more effective than conventional methods of patient identity authentication. This is because biometric verification is based on the biological Characteristics of the individual, which are unique to each person. By efficiently employing this method, patient identification can be done with utmost convenience and the highest level of safety.