This is part of a recurring blog series, called Life Among Duplicate Records. We encourage you to share your own matching nightmares by tweeting us at @Verato_Software.
I am passionate about Verato’s mission to solve patient matching across the country. It may sound a bit corny to care so much about this problem, which is why I am starting this blog series to explain.
As you can see from my byline, my last name is St. Thomas. When I was in middle school, I had a teacher who told me my name was perfect for the three-name-celebrity trend of the time (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Catherine Zeta-Jones, you get the point). I took this to mean that I, too, was destined for celebrity. I thanked my parents for the great gift of this attractive name. But that was the 90s and I could never have imagined the administrative nightmare digital records would create for my future.
With a period and a space in my last name, I often struggle when I register in a new system. Should I take the path of least resistance, ignore both and go with “Stthomas”? This will cause confusion when they call me to confirm my appointment. Will the system accept both the period and space and let me live my true identity, the identity that is reflected on my typewritten birth certificate?
Last weekend, my partner and I decided to downsize from two cars to one. It seemed like such an easy task. We would sell my car, add my name to his insurance and feel good about reducing our carbon footprint.
When we showed up at CarMax, I told the man at the check-in counter my name and the appointment time. When he said I had no appointment, we began a familiar 15-minute dance trying different last names until he finally found it as “Stephanie Thomas.”
I watched the appraisal board update the “Thomas” status as my partner rolled his eyes. When it came time to finish the paperwork, we had a good laugh with the manager about how my license, car registration and appointment name each were spelled differently. Such fun! I asked her to re-write the check to match my bank’s interpretation of my name. All of this finagling of my name added at least 20 minutes to the process, but we still emerged relatively unscathed – although I’m sure CarMax would appreciate those 20 minutes back.
Later, we went to add my name to my partner’s insurance. And finally, the snag. The DC DMV has my last name as the simple “St.” This government record of mine that one would think would be reliable decided to forgo the Thomas in St. Thomas. Geico has an instant identity verification with the DMV that must be based off of license number, and there was no way to resolve the spelling of my name for Geico’s purposes. We were at an impasse. Without any other options, we accepted the DMV’s interpretation of my name for the moment, opening up a whole bunch of issues for me in the future.
I now have two choices. I can accept that this registered record of my name will live on without my proper last name, undoubtedly creating a duplicate record for me. Or, because I know the consequences duplicate records can have, I can wait for hours at the DMV to attempt to update it myself. In an ideal world, the DMV would be using a Referential Matching solution that would do that work for me – in a tiny fraction of the time.
I am sure I am not alone in this type of scenario. We encourage you to share your own matching problems by tweeting us at @Verato_Software.