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What role does misidentification cause in doctor errors?

You likely already know by now how serious it can be if your personal financial information were mixed up with someone else’s, either intentionally or accidentally. You could end up with a nightmare trying to sort out the resulting tax and credit problems and possibly have to deal with identity theft. Is it possible for the same thing to happen with your medical records? Unfortunately, patient misidentification frequently occurs in hospitals and medical facilities in Massachusetts, as well as across the country.

According to STAT, patient records are switched or mismatched approximately 8 percent of the time. These mistakes could involve your chart being accidentally switched with another patient sharing your room or in the same medical ward, or your information might be incorrectly recorded in the records of another patient with the same name. In one example, this happened when a hospital patient was erroneously billed for the emergency room visit of a patient who shared his name.

Is it really that big a deal if your information is incorrectly entered or switched? Unfortunately, the results can be grave. You might, for example, be given the wrong medications or undergo a surgical procedure meant for another patient. If you manage to avoid this type of potentially life-threatening problem, you might end up having to sort out a billing problem. Your privacy could also be compromised.

Is there a way to prevent this from happening? Some medical experts say that registering everyone with a national or universal patient identification system could protect their records from the worst types of identity mistakes. Systems like this are already being used in Britain and other countries. However, other people worry that this could result in identity theft. It is clear, though, that some changes are necessary to protect you and others from the common mistake of having your medical records mixed up.

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