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Performance Improvement: Registration-Associated Patient Misidentification in an Academic Medical Center: Causes and Corrections

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Background: Proper patient identification is a major factor affecting patient safety in any health care organization.

Methods: An interdisciplinary team, using three Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles, reviewed the incidence of patient misidentifications resulting from registration process errors. Retrospective and prospective data were collected to determine the incidence among inpatients and outpatients.

Results: Registration-associated patient misidentification errors occurred 7 to 15 times per month. Information systems deficiencies, inadequate training, and the lack of a single master patient index were among the root causes identified. After three PDSA cycles, the incidence rate for registration-associated patient misidentification errors declined for inpatients (80.5%) but increased for outpatients (30.2%).

Discussion: Through an iterative process as implied in the PDSA cycle, registration-associated patient misidentification errors for established Johns Hopkins Hospital patients were dramatically reduced. A checklist is provided for other organizations to assess their vulnerability to registration-associated patient misidentification errors. The checklist suggests, for example, that organizations strive to develop a single master patient index and limit access to registration systems to staff with proper training and performance expectations.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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