How To Correctly Identify Patients And Use Photo ID | Episode #083

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Patients should be asked to show their Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) card and photo identification when visiting a practitioner office.

But . . . it is not appropriate to keep a photocopy of the drivers license (or other photo ID) as part of the patient’s health record.

Correctly collecting patient identification is important!

Failure to correctly identify patients can lead to serious problems such as medication errors, as well as privacy breaches.

Positive patient identification is critical to ensure patient safety and protect patient data.According to industry research cited by RAND, 7-10% of registering patients are misidentified upon entry.

Patient misidentification contributes to:

  • 27% of radiation errors
  • 29% of medication errors
  • 5% of wrong-patient/wrong-site surgeries
  • 850 medical errors and 20 deaths related to blood transfusions

And, of course, we must deal with the administrative headache of privacy breaches and medical identity theft and duplicate patient records!

Practice Management Success

Practice Management Success

Are you feeling frustrated with the same problem over and over again in your clinic?

Or solving one problem just to find another problem popping up?

Don’t know where to go for help?

Many new and seasoned clinic managers find that they need help from time to time with questions like the ones that we discussed in this podcast episode.

To access all the resources mentioned in this podcast, join us at Practice Management Success!


In Canada, health ministries have underscored the importance of correct patient identification when they issue Patient Safety Alerts. Correct patient identification criteria is also included in Accreditation Canada standards.

Verifying patient information improves patient care and efficient business practices. Click to Tweet


  • Care – Good patient care starts with correct patient identification. Incorrectly identifying patients contributes to medication, transfusion, procedure and testing, errors.
  • Good Documentation – Avoid incomplete, inaccurate, and duplicate patient records!
  • Gatekeeper –Each caregiver has the responsibility to identify the patient before providing a health service. I think that the family physician has an added role and responsibility of the patients’ gatekeeper to additional health services to ensure that the documentation of patient identification is correct at the time of registration.
  • Billing – Avoid rejected billing and re-work when you correctly identify the patient and record the data correctly the first time. Patient demographic information is best corrected while the patient is present at the clinic instead of trying to contact the patient after they leave the clinic.

Don’t Photocopy The Photo Identification

You should record that you viewed the photo ID and verified, but do not record the unique number associated with the photo identification (for example, driver’s license number). Do not photocopy the photo identification.

Remember, we have a responsibility to collect the least amount of information necessary. Viewing photo id to verify the identity of the patient, is a reasonable step to ensure the safety of the patient and to prevent an error. Recording the drivers license number or photocopying the drivers license is not necessary to provide a health service and an unnecessary (and probably illegal) privacy and security breach.

Members of Practice Management Success receive templates of the new patient registration form, registration procedure, and the collection notice. If you are not a member yet, Click here and let me help you with your Practice Management Success!

Show Notes

Recorded May 21, 2019

You can advance the audio to these time markers:

00:38  How To Record Patient Identification

03:48  Risks Not Correctly ID Patients

05:05  Patient Safety Alert

05:20  Importance Of Correct Patient ID

08:15  Health Care Card Security

Education to the patient to ensure that they understand the importance of correctly identify the patient means they get the right health care service.

10:35  Verify Patient ID

14:40  Policies and Procedures

15:16  New Patient Registration Form

16:49  Don’t Photocopy The ID

Remember – if you don’t need the information  to provide a health service, don’t collect it. You don’t have legal authority to make a photocopy the ID or the drivers license number.

17:57  Don’t Photocopy the AHCIP Card

19:40  I’m happy to help you to identify a good process in your clinic to correctly identify patients so that you can continue to provide good care to your patients.

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I am honoured that you choose to spend your time with me today. Thank you for the opportunity to share my obsession about privacy, confidentiality, and security with you!

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Jean L. Eaton, Your Practical Privacy Coach

and Your Practice Management Mentor

with Information Managers Ltd.