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Improving the provider-patient relationship with accurate patient demographic data

Todd Bennett Headshot

Todd Bennett, Director, Vertical Market, LexisNexis Health Care

Patients do what they want. If they don’t want to take medicine, they won’t fill the prescription. If they don’t want to come in for a preventive check-up, they just won’t show up. If a friend recommends a doctor, they may not even say good-bye to the old doc before trying the new one. Even though provider network design may promote a smaller, more focused contingent of practitioners, patients can still easily go to practitioners outside of those networks. With these and the many other factors outside of the control of clinicians, it’s incumbent upon healthcare providers to ensure that every patient interaction is one that helps attract and retain them and that the information driving those interactions is complete and accurate.

Accurate and complete patient profiles

One way to impact patient interactions and the completeness of information available to clinicians is to ensure you’ve got accurate patient demographic profiles. Whether matching a presenting patient to their existing medical record or matching a medical document sent from one care setting to another, patient demographics fuel this process. Patient demographics impact much more though.

Want to create a bad patient experience? Pull the medical record for a similar-sounding patient and start administering medicine only to find mid-course that the patient has an allergy to that med. Send a blood specimen to a lab with missing patient identifiers only to never receive the results and have to call back the patient and redraw the specimen. Tell your patient that their Social Security Number was stolen by an identity thief. Want to contact that patient for post-discharge follow-up or to get that patient experience survey filled out? It won’t be a snap if you don’t have an accurate and complete patient demographic profile.

Each of these examples demonstrates the reliance of healthcare providers on patient demographic profiles for everyday actions. The quality of those profiles sets the conditions for more efficient and less risky healthcare providers and more satisfied patients.

The role of patient demographic data maintenance

Managing patient demographic profiles can be a complex task because patient data is always changing. Address changes, name variations, new phone numbers, expired patients, and data collection errors all play into the complexity. Add to the mix – matching algorithms, multiple enterprise master patient indexes, and the fact that patient demographics are stored differently within numerous technology applications and touched by many users – and you’ve got a recipe for inefficiency and mistakes. If you have an inconsistent and immature process for identifying incomplete, outdated, and otherwise incorrect data, mistakes created in one area of a health system can spread unnoticed through workflows to other parts of the organization.

Commercially available consumer datasets that are sourced from trusted and authoritative documents can simplify and strengthen patient demographic-dependent processes. Using historic, nationwide, and continually refreshed data as a comparison, you can identify profile errors, outdated demographics, and fill data gaps. In addition to identifying patient demographic problems, you can also identify where the problems originated within a health system, so that you can address systemic problems in specific workflows and settings.

Do you have a downstream application that truncates demographic digits that are useful for patient matching? Notice a worsening trend of demographic data problems and want to monitor care settings to find the root cause? Periodic scanning of patient registries and master indexes for duplicate records and data problems can help solve some of these challenges and act as a backstop for errant human or technological processes.

Seeking demographic truth and reducing friction

Without a consistent and systematic way to compare patient demographic profiles to a current and comprehensive source of demographic truth, healthcare providers run the risk of inefficient and potentially harmful patient care and simultaneously risk losing patients to competitors when the experience of interacting with a health system fails to be frictionless. In a healthcare landscape where many factors are beyond provider control, maintaining high-quality patient demographic profiles is an easily executed project that can help reduce risk, increase staff efficiency, and improve the patient experience.

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