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What is National Patient Identifier and how it can solve patient misidentification?

July 27, 2020 - by Parul Saini, Webmedy team

Patient misidentification has remained a hot button problem for over two decades and the National Patient Identifier could be the solution.

Are you wondering what a National Patient Identifier is? Then have a look at the section below here is, in brief, what are National Patient Identifiers and their importance in healthcare.

The Biggest Problem - Patient Misidentification

Patient misidentification adversely affects care quality and patient security and health. The top-most reasons for patient misrecognition encompass patient enrolment failures (64 percent), time restrictions when handling patients (60 percent), and duplicate medical documents (30 percent).

Patient matching problems have surrounded the healthcare industry for decades. Patient matching, or the ability to correlate the correct medical data to a suitable patient, is a key patient safety issue made complex by limited interoperability and data governance. Patient matching tries to connect patient records over different medical providers or facilities. The same patient attending two different doctors or two different hospitals should always have the accurate medical record brought up. However, this does not always occur, and this mismatching can not only be harmful to the patient but can also cause heavy financial loss for the healthcare organization. From data entry mistakes to poor technology, to problems such as patients leaving or divorcing, several factors lead to poor patient misidentification. Some areas where patient misidentification can occur include - drug administration, phlebotomy, blood transfusions, and surgical interventions. As the number of payers and organizations in the healthcare sector is increasing, patient matching is now more important.

One possible solution to patient matching problems is the use of National Patient Identifiers.

What is National Patient Identifier?

A National Patient Identifier (NPI) is a permanently assigned, unique number assigned to a person, that can be used across the entire spectrum of a national healthcare system. Some examples are a medical record number, a national ID, a social security number, a driver's license number, Aadhar card number, etc.

Positives of Patient Identifiers:

  • Healthcare savings
  • Enhanced Security and Privacy
  • Achieving Interoperability
  • Improved patient data entries

Biometric-based National Patient Identifiers

Few healthcare stakeholders have tried to promote patient classification with third-party text-based comparable algorithms supported by demographic information like first and last names, dates of birth, SSNs and addresses, to varying levels of success. What's been missing from the picture are individual identifiers; specifically, biometrics. Data can be interchanged, removed, forgotten, copied, mistyped, and replicated. A biometric recognizer such as a fingerprint or a face, yet, is integral to a single person. That makes it more helpful for:

  • More Cleaner original patient records
  • More infrequent duplicate health records
  • Reduced risk of operating the wrong patient

Biometrics also operates under those incidents in which clinics or emergency hospital patients do not have any form of physical identification. In effect, patients are their IDs. The use of Biometrics in PHR(Personal Health Record) allows healthcare systems to restrict duplicate medical records and handle fraud while advancing patient safety.


National patient identifiers limit the loss incurred during a security breach, while not in any way increasing the risk of one happening. More correct data wouldn't just be useful for individual providers seeing to enhance patient care, but for scientific research as well through faster and more reliable discoveries in medicine. NPIs would benefit both physicians and patients as well as help in building a more connected healthcare ecosystem. The healthcare system requires a consistent method for identifying patients, without which holes in the system will continue to exist as data is going to be misapplied, resulting in patients receiving lower than optimal care.

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