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Deceased Patients Persistently receive Healthcare Notifications: A critical oversight in Systematic Management

In a concerning revelation, it has come to light that deceased individuals are still receiving healthcare notifications and reminders, shedding light on a critical oversight in the management of patient records within the healthcare system.

Reports indicate that despite being deceased, individuals continue to receive automated reminders for appointments, medication refills, and even promotional healthcare campaigns. This oversight not only raises ethical concerns but also points to potential systemic flaws in managing patient databases.

Researchers discovered that 25% of over 12,000 patients in an earlier study of critically ill primary care patients had passed away and were noted as deceased in an electronic health record (EHR) maintained by the University of California healthcare system. 

However, 676 people (5.8%) who had passed away were still listed in the EHR as living. Of them, 541 (or 80%) were still in contact. 

They were contacted by 221 phone calls, 338 portal messages, and 920 letters with unfulfilled primary care requirements, such as cancer screening reminders. 

184 orders for vaccines were also received. 130 cases included the authorization of medications.

According to corresponding author Neil S. Wenger, M.D., M.P.H., of the UCLA Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research, and his colleagues,

"Not knowing who is dead hinders efficient health management, billing, advanced illness interventions, and measurement." "It impedes the health system’s ability to learn from adverse outcomes, to implement quality improvement, and to provide support for families."

Neil S. Wenger

States record deaths, but healthcare institutions do not get this data. Although providers have not been allowed to access the real-time fact of death service maintained by the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems, Wenger and his colleagues point out that it exists.

Moving Towards Ethical and Systematic Solutions

Efforts are underway within healthcare systems to address this issue, aiming to create more ethical and accurate record-keeping practices. 

Implementing systematic changes that prioritize timely updates and the respectful handling of deceased patients’ records is imperative to prevent such distressing oversights.

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