4 common reasons for duplicate records

Duplicate records in EHRs can be costly for organizations and lead to patient identification errors. Identifying the underlying causes of duplicate records could help organizations minimize their prevalence and improve the data integrity in their EHRs.

A 2014 study published in Perspectives in Health Information Management examined the challenges of patient matching and the prevalence of duplicate records in a multisite data set of nearly 399,000 patient records.

The study found discrepancies in middle names accounted for 58.30 percent of mismatches, followed by Social Security numbers (53.54 percent of duplicate pairs) and misspelled names (53.14 percent in first names and 33.62 percent in last name).

So what are the data-related reasons for duplicate records? The study highlighted four common ones.

1. Lack of data standardization. The text fields for entering names vary across healthcare system databases. While one system might provide three separate fields for a first, middle and last name, others may just have one field for a name, which permits users to enter their names however they want.

2. Changing demographic data. Name changes, address changes and phone number changes are common, and this varying information can be a barrier to accurate patient matching.

3. Lack of multiple matching demographic data points. Effectively matching patients requires corroborating multiple data points, but if records don't have enough data points to match, multiple patients may be associated with the same record.

4. Default values. Text fields that don't have to be filled, like middle name, can reduce accurate patient matching.

The authors suggest initial, immediate steps organizations can take to reduce patient identification and matching errors, such as establishing standard policies and procedures. However, in the long term, the authors suggest more sophisticated technologies will be central to helping resolve this issue. Biometrics, smart card readers and advanced algorithms could help patient matching accuracy.

More articles on patient matching:

Texas Hospital Association taps NextGate for patient matching tech: 3 things to know
CHIME launches National Patient ID Challenge
Patient matching problems plague half of HIM professionals: 6 survey takeaways

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