By Andy Aroditis

A vaccine mix-up sent a 91-year-old Ohio man to the emergency room last week after he received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on the same day. Four hours after receiving a shot at a mass vaccination site near Cincinnati, Victor Smith was given a second dose at his nursing home. As Smith’s daughter-in-law explained, the second vaccination Smith received was a case of mistaken identity. Smith continues to be hospitalized with respiratory distress.

Sadly, situations like Victor’s are not new. And because patient identification issues typically only receive attention when they result in harm, misidentification errors are likely under reported.

Immunizing millions of Americans—in order of priority—is an enormous undertaking. Individuals and their health histories must be tracked and managed accurately and effectively. Any errors in administering the vaccine (individuals receiving too many doses or not enough) could be devastating.

The issue of patient identification becomes even more complex as a number of vaccines have entered the market at the same time; each with their own set of schedules for administering. For example, Moderna and Pfizer require two doses about 21 days apart, while Johnson and Johnson requires one dose. Multiple doses and different vaccines not only pose logistical concerns, but serious health and safety implications as well.

For instance, a patient receives their first immunization shot at their local CVS pharmacy. Three weeks later, when it’s time for their second dose, they visit their primary care doctor. The physician’s office needs to know exactly which vaccine the patient received and when. That requires accurate, up-to-date patient records in an organization’s EHR or a state’s immunization registry. 

Inadequate patient matching and identification have already hindered our nation’s public health response to the pandemic. Contact tracing and testing efforts have been notoriously stalled because basic demographic elements like phone numbers and addresses to identify and communicate with patients are not being captured. Research from the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) finds that nationally, about 80 percent of coronavirus test results are missing critical demographic information and 50 percent are missing addresses. Further, some laboratories routinely input the ordering provider’s phone number instead of the patient’s, while others don’t supply a phone number at all.

This kind of certainty when identifying patients can only be realized with the right technology and strong data governance practices in place.

Technology to Drive Nationwide Inoculation

Strict data governance protocols for retrieval of patient information, in combination with proven tech solutions as Enterprise Master Patient Indexes (EMPIs) for standardizing and linking demographic information, is a significant advantage for managing vaccinations efficiently. A unifying identifier employed by the EMPI safeguards patient data quality and automates demographic matching to compare records in real-time between disparate sources.

An EMPI plays a key role in supporting large-scale immunizations by:

  • Ensuring the right individual receives the right vaccination at the right time through consistent patient identification and a comprehensive view of the individual’s vaccination history;
  • Facilitating the exchange of information among a wide range of care participants to empower clinicians, pharmacists and public health officials with the most up-to-date vaccination information;
  • Unifying immunization and related patient data across a myriad of systems, locations and populations to identify gaps in vaccination coverage, and identify adverse side effects or events; and
  • Enabling a better vaccination experience for patients.

With 2.2 million Americans now being vaccinated per day, knowing when an individual was immunized, which vaccine he or she received, and any reported side effects is critical to ensuring safe, timely and appropriate immunizations.

Robust patient identification tools like EMPIs that uniformly orchestrate patient data across the spectrum of care serve as a critical piece of infrastructure to track broadly administered immunizations accurately and competently.

To learn more about how NextGate’s market-leading EMPI can help your institution gain access to accurate, complete and up-to-date demographic data, click here.

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Andy Aroditis is CEO of NextGatethe global leader in healthcare enterprise identification. You can reach him at