MEMORIAL HEALTH: Patient ID Card Brings Swift Success
Long Beach-based Memorial Health Services has won this year's Innovation in Healthcare Information Technology Award for offering a wallet-sized patient ID card encoded with individuals' vital medical information. The current issue of Modern Healthcare takes a look at the Medical Access and Information Card, which stores patient medical history, blood type and information on insurance coverage. The information encoded on the card captures patient information in a systemwide database "used to generate age-specific health care information for the card holder" -- not to mention business for the hospital. For example, when the database identifies that a woman is approaching 40 years old, it mails her a reminder about mammograms.
Modern Healthcare reports that the card has slashed patient admission time and administrative paperwork. Memorial Senior Vice President J. Scott Joslyn noted, "Staff at physician offices spend a lot of time on the phone to confirm [insurance] eligibility. This obviates the need for that." Computers outfitted with card readers have the extra advantage of being able to check credit cards that patients use for their copays. "Copays can make the difference between profit and loss," asserted Joslyn. The article reports that the system increased monthly credit card collections from $249 per month in January 1998 to $9,637 in November 1998.
MemorialCare, the four-hospital system's development arm, incorporated patient input from 1,500 telephone surveys into its card design. Although consumers cited confidentiality concerns, MemorialCare "pledged that the information provided by the patient is 'for the exclusive use of MemorialCare and its physicians." For their part, patients are snatching up the new cards, and 36 doctors have enrolled in the program with 45 more on a waiting list. Memorial Health Services predicts that the "brand" name on the card will steer patients to the hospital system. "Hopefully, (patients) will feel involved and feel like they have a relationship with us," said Annette Walker, vice president of MemorialCare. Memorial Health Services has a patent pending on the card, and Joslyn predicts that the system's capabilities will extend to the Internet. "There are many ways to leverage this card for the benefit of patient care," he said (Katzman, 2/1 issue).