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Patient Matching Errors in the Private Health Care Sector

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In North Carolina and across the U.S., numerous hospitals, medical practices and long-term and post-acute care providers are being plagued by patient matching errors. This leads to the electronic exchange of faulty patient information, which in turn means patients are at risk for being treated for the wrong conditions. Meanwhile, the diagnosis of their actual condition will be delayed or lost altogether.

In a recent letter to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, 33 health care organizations and stakeholders pointed out this issue, which they say will only grow as more facilities use data exchange. The organizations included the American Medical Association and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

To achieve nationwide interoperability, advocates say patients must be accurately matched to their data. Besides improving strategies for this, there are other barriers. The committee could also allow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to use funds toward a thorough exploration of the issue. Duplicate electronic health records should also be done away with, especially because of their cost.

Utilizing an enterprise master patient index can cut down on the number of duplicates EHRs. This can also be helpful in reducing the number of claims. Denied claims in themselves cost hospitals approximately $6 billion every year.

Until drastic measures are taken nationwide, however, the number of delayed diagnoses, medication errors and other forms of hospital negligence will probably not go down. Those who suffer unnecessary injuries and emotional trauma on account of such negligence can seek legal guidance. The lawyer could negotiate for a fair settlement covering both short- and long-term medical expenses.

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