The problem of mismatched records is exacerbated when patients share common identifiers. Given that certain names are extremely common—Muhammad, Mohammed, or Mohammad is thought to be the most popular name in the world—it is easy to see that using names as patient identifiers is problematic.
Less common but still troubling is the phenomenon of shared birthdays. Most twins share a birthday, of course, but people from some cultures share a de facto birthday. Take for example people born in Afghanistan in the last 30 years or so. When war was raging in the 1980s and 1990s, few birth records were kept and many individuals didn’t know on what date they were born. When U.S. and NATO forces arrived and asked them for a date, many chose Jan. 1 because it was easy to remember.
The prospect of multiple patients named Muhammad with a birthdate of Jan. 1 should send chills through patient registration personnel.
See related article: Patient Matching in the Era of EHRs
J. Stuart Showalter, JD, MFS, is a contributing editor for HFMA.