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The Impact of Duplicate Medical Records: How to Prevent Overlaps and Ensure Patient Safety

Healthcare interoperability/Referential Matching

In an era where digital healthcare technology is rapidly changing the way care is delivered, understanding how to properly manage and prevent duplicate patient records is essential for healthcare professionals. Duplicate medical records happen when multiple records exist for the same patient within a healthcare system. They can be a significant burden on both patients and clinicians alike—from missed appointments and extra costs due to repeat tests to potential delays in diagnosis or mistreatment or even dangerous medical errors. 

To ensure that patient safety is not compromised, it’s important for healthcare providers to have strategies in place to avoid duplicating patient identities in their recordkeeping systems. In this blog post, we’ll look at the impact of duplicate medical records and provide tips for preventing overlaps so you can keep your patients safe. 

What are some of the common patient identifier errors?

  • On average, more than 7 patients share the same name at a healthcare organization. This can make it challenging to identify a patient if medical records are incomplete or outdated and lead to medical errors due to misidentification.  
  • When a patient receives and takes medication intended for another patient, the consequences can be devastating and even lead to death. That is why it is especially important to confirm a patient’s identity before administering medication. 

What causes duplication of health records?

  • Data entry errors can contribute to the chaos of duplicate health records in multiple ways. File mismatches often arise when medical staff mistype key data, such as a patient’s name or other identifying data, leading to confusion between two different individuals. A survey of Twin Cities healthcare organizations concluded most duplicate patient records are created during the registration process. 
  • In addition, many digital health apps require self-registration by patients, which often leads to duplicate records. Patients might use different contact or identification information than already on file, causing a new record to be created if the data isn’t properly verified. It’s a common issue, with 71% of healthcare organizations agreeing or strongly agreeing portals allowing patients to self-schedule and/or register are contributing to an increase in duplicate record creation or identity issues. 
  • Mergers and acquisitions are another frequent source of duplicate records. When healthcare organizations acquire or merge with other entities, new and additional patient data from multiple sources must be appropriately integrated and reconciled to avoid duplicate records. Additionally, patients may have received care at multiple facilities within the merged or acquired healthcare systems, resulting in the creation of duplicate records if their information is not accurately linked and consolidated. 
  • In an age where medical technology is changing at a rapid rate, it is important for healthcare professionals to maintain data integrity. If outdated data remains in place instead of being updated, a new data entry might be created alongside the old one, creating duplicate records. 
  • Incomplete patient records can also lead to the duplication of health records. If a healthcare provider is unable to obtain all the necessary information from a patient, another professional might attempt to input the same data again later, creating a new record. 
  • Without a consistent format for healthcare professionals to follow when inputting information within and across facilities, patient data can be difficult to reconcile and match. Such a lack of standardized health data management can lead to the creation of duplicate medical records and cause confusion. 

What adverse impact do duplicate records have?

Every duplicate record has a trickle-down effect, compromising and threatening patients, providers, and payers. Below we explore common effects of duplicate records in healthcare organizations: 

Patient safety 

Duplicate records can pose a significant threat to patient safety as healthcare providers may rely on incorrect, incomplete, or outdated information to make crucial decisions about patient care. The presence of multiple records can lead to errors in medication or treatment, misdiagnosis, and even death. 

HIPAA security 

Duplicate records can compromise the security of patient information and violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). If multiple records exist, it can be challenging to identify which is the most accurate and up to date, leading to the potential for unauthorized access, misuse, or even theft of patient information. Duplicate data stored in more places than necessary gives cybercriminals increased opportunities to steal information. 

Quality reporting 

Star ratings, HEDIS, and payer performance contracts all hinge on accurate quality reporting, which is used to assess the quality of healthcare services provided by healthcare providers. Duplicate records can impact the accuracy of quality reporting. When duplicate records exist, it can be challenging to determine the actual number of patients seen or the specific services provided, leading to inaccurate reporting. 

Care coordination 

One of the most critical use cases for interoperability is the need for cross-enterprise care coordination. Providers across an affiliated network (and heterogeneous EHR systems) need to reference complete and trusted data for a single patient with certainty and without compromising patient privacy. If a patient’s data are fragmented into two or more records in the EHR, each provider is seeing only a portion of the patient’s history. 

Patient experience 

In today’s interconnected world, patients are frustrated by the lack of coordination and communication across healthcare. Linking all patient interactions within a health system to streamline patient communication can solve many patient experience headaches. When duplicate records for a patient exist, they are each missing important information captured only in the other record. This can lead to asking the patient multiple times for the same information, or even suggesting or administering tests and care that have already been received. 

Unnecessary utilization 

Duplicate records for a patient can cause test results or treatment history to not show up in the record a clinician is referencing while ordering further tests or care. This can lead to repeat tests, redundant treatment or care, and delays while staff try to locate missing test results. A recent AHIMA study showed that on average, repeated tests or treatment delays added $1,100 to the cost of the patient’s care.  

Value-based care initiatives 

Duplicate records mean that a patient’s data—including different parts of their medical history–is fragmented and not available in one place. As reimbursement is increasingly tied to a provider’s ability to impact health outcomes, it is critical for a provider to gain visibility into the patient’s complete and accurate record, including full utilization history. Missing clarity on lab tests for a patient, for example, can be the difference between achieving a performance bonus and paying a penalty. 

Monetary costs

Duplicate records can result in increased costs for healthcare providers and patients due to extra administrative tasks, time spent verifying and correcting information, and potential legal costs associated with HIPAA violations or other breaches of patient information. 

Increases in insurance claims if wrong treatment was given

Duplicate records can lead to incorrect treatment plans, resulting in the need for additional care and potentially increasing insurance claims. This can also negatively impact patient outcomes and satisfaction with healthcare services. 

Who do duplicate medical records impact?

Duplicate medical records occur when two or more patient profiles exist in an electronic database for the same person. Oftentimes, each record only contains data for only part of a patient’s care journey, making it difficult to see the whole picture. Not only can this cause confusion for healthcare providers, but it can also result in billing inaccuracies and delayed treatments – and can sometimes lead to severe adverse health effects. The Verato Universal Identity™ platform is able to manage patient, provider, and consumer records across an entire healthcare organization, eliminating duplicate records and improving care quality. 


Duplicate patient records can have a significant impact on health outcomes. When multiple medical records exist for a single patient, it can lead to inaccurate diagnoses, delayed treatment, and even medical errors. For example, if a physician can’t see everything about a patient’s medical history, they might prescribe medication that adversely interacts with medication the patient already takes. 


Duplicate records make it harder for physicians and other providers to see every previous treatment, diagnosis, and medication a patient received. Not only can this lead to medical errors, including serious injuries and death, but it also delays treatment if repeat procedures are ordered or physicians have to spend valuable time sifting through redundant information or trying to reconcile conflicting data across multiple records. 

HIM specialists

Duplicate medical records also pose a challenge for Health Information Management (HIM) professionals. These professionals are responsible for ensuring the accuracy and integrity of medical records and must manage the organization, storage, and maintenance of patient health information. Duplicate records can lead to data inconsistencies, making it difficult for HIM professionals to maintain a comprehensive and accurate patient record. 

Provider organizations

Duplicate medical records can significantly impact provider organizations such as hospitals and health systems, both operationally and financially. The presence of duplicate records can result in inefficiencies in data management, leading to increased costs and reduced productivity. As mentioned above, the need to merge or delete duplicate records can require significant administrative effort, diverting resources from other critical areas of hospital operations. Additionally, the risk of medical errors resulting from duplicate records can lead to increased liability and potential legal consequences. 

What are some solutions to duplicate medical records?

Use Unique Patient Identifiers

Unique patient identifiers can significantly reduce the occurrence of duplicate medical records. A unique patient identifier is a distinct code assigned to each patient that can be used to link patient information accurately and efficiently across various systems. With a unique patient identifier, healthcare providers can easily identify patients and their medical history, reducing the likelihood of creating duplicate records and medical errors. 

Take Time to Find the Right Record

Taking the time to find the right medical record instead of creating a new record can significantly reduce the occurrence of duplicate records. This can be accomplished by verifying patient information, including their name, date of birth, and social security number, at each encounter with the healthcare system. 

Take Care to Avoid Data Entry Errors

Avoiding data entry errors is key to preventing duplicate records in healthcare. Healthcare workers should take extra care to double-check the accuracy of patient information, such as name and contact details, before entering it into a database. This will ensure that records are kept up-to-date and prevent duplicates due to wrong or outdated information. 

Utilize Biometric Technology

Utilizing biometric technology is another way to reduce the chance of duplicate records. Biometric technology, such as face recognition or fingerprint scanners, can be used to authenticate patients and easily verify their identity, preventing confusion between multiple individuals with similar information. 

Consider using modern technology to conquer the problem of data duplication

With the rise of digital health tools, healthcare providers have access to a range of automated systems that make data entry much more efficient and accurate. By utilizing enterprise master patient index (EMPI) and master data management (MDM) tools in addition to electronic health records (EHR) systems, healthcare organizations can reduce the chances of duplicate entries caused by human error or miscommunication. EMPI and MDM solutions can automatically match and manage patient records stored in EHRs to reduce the occurrence of duplicate records and allow HIM professionals to work more efficiently. 

Why conventional master patient index (MPI) solutions aren’t able to solve these problems:

Conventional matching solutions, like the MPI modules found in EHRs, and the enterprise master patient index (EMPI) solutions from vendors like IBM® and NextGate®, rely on demographic data to match patient records. But errored, changed or missing demographic information, such as last names or phone numbers, can easily cause a missed match. 

Conventional MPIs and EMPIs are also unable to match if demographic data is missing from one patient record – and this problem is becoming more common, as thin or sparse demographic data is a primary feature of new data sets, such as patient portals, pharmacy claims and lab data. 

An error in matching demographic data at any point can cause a duplicate record – or worse a false overlay. Duplicates and false overlays greatly compromise patient safety and privacy, and lead to increased costs. Many healthcare organizations invest in teams of health information management (HIM) professionals to help manually resolve records suspected to be duplicates by EHR, MPI, and EMPI technologies. But these “potential duplicate records” often accumulate faster than HIM staff can keep up, resulting in thousands of duplicate records – severely impeding the ability to accurately report quality performance or for timely enhancements to the care continuum. 

Why the Verato Universal™ MPI is better:

The Verato Universal MPI powers the Verato Universal Identity™ platform. It uses a totally new approach to patient matching called “Referential Matching” that is a quantum leap more accurate than the matching technologies found in conventional EHR, MPI, EMPI, and MDM systems. 

Rather than directly comparing the demographic data from two patient records to see if they match, the Verato Universal MPI instead matches that demographic data to its comprehensive and continuously updated reference database of identities. This proprietary database contains over 300 million identities spanning the entire U.S. population, and each identity contains a complete profile of demographic data spanning a 30-year history. It is essentially a pre-built answer key for all patient demographic data. 

By matching records to this database instead of to each other, Verato can make matches that conventional patient matching technologies could never make—even patient records containing demographic data that is out-of-date, incomplete, incorrect, or different. 

The Verato Universal MPI is also a HITRUST-certified SaaS solution. Simply put, it is the most accurate, easiest to implement, most secure, and most cost-effective EMPI solution on the market, allowing payers and providers to easily develop a more complete patient picture. 

Contact us to learn more, or read about how larger healthcare trends demand a new patient identity architecture in our White Paper by clicking here. 

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