Healthcare’s Yanny vs. Laurel problem

By now we’re sure you’ve heard of the “Yanny vs. Laurel” debate that has been sweeping the internet during the month of May. But this debate over who can hear it best, is less about the White Dress/Blue Dress controversy of 2015 and more about how visual perception, hearing, and ambiguity are the enemies of effective healthcare.

The phenomenon of mishearing or misreading patient data has a real effect on healthcare. The registrar might be hearing clearly (in a loud waiting room, or if a patient has a soft voice / thick accent). When searching for a patient, the registrar might not find the patient right away if they are looking for the wrong name. They may also have an issue finding the right patient if the name they are looking for was entered in wrong when transcribing from the written forms.


Bad handwriting, horrible penmanship, hard to read fonts? Let’s face it, the way letters are physically formed can make a huge difference in how someone reads text on a page… and that’s not even the Doctor’s handwriting! Those dreaded registration forms that many of us fill out by hand, create additional hazards. Is that a 1 or a 7? Does the last name say “Langston” or “Lungstrum”? So often, the patient is out of the room, maybe even gone from the building when the registration team start keying in those questionnaires. So, what happens when registration read things incorrectly?


One of our staff member runs into problems all the time, since his First Name is really a Last Name and his Last Name is a popular First Name. These problems have real consequences for healthcare. Years ago he had a kidney stone attack. The hospital near his office was a place he had only visited for lab work. During that lab work processing, his First and Last Names were inverted. During patient registration in the Emergency Department for his kidney stone attack this came to light. The staff went ahead and registered him under the account that had my names switched. Little did he know that would come back to haunt him a few hours later.


His doctor needed to give him a procedure that required general anesthesia. The hospital’s policy was that a patient cannot be put under if the name on their wristband is incorrect. Instead of a 45 minute procedure, it took over 5 hours. Four of those hours were spent waiting on the health information management team to change his name in the EMR. Unfortunately, his pregnant wife with a toddler on her lap was told “45 minutes” and didn’t get an update for five more hours… that has a real impact on patient satisfaction!

How do we keep the “Laurel vs. Yanny” and “White Dress/Blue Dress” issues from impacting healthcare?

Here at IMT, these are the kinds of identity management issues that we see all the time. While we cannot control what people type, we can make sure that the Enterprise Master Patient Index (EMPI) allows flexibility when searching and that the least amount of manual transcription takes place.

IMT Master:ID™ - Using Master:ID, we create a trusted source of data from across multiple systems. Since Master:ID uses the most recent versions of the data, it shows the latest version of the Patient Record, even if that data came from a different system within the enterprise. Master:ID also leverages phonetics and nicknames, so even if a name is spelled incorrectly, you increase the odds of locating the record you are after. Less typing and more finding the right patient!

IMT Resolve:ID™ - Using Resolve:ID, we provide a seamless interface at the point of registration to search the EMPI. With our partnership with Imprivata, we also offer the added security and accuracy of palm scanning to speed up check-in and positive verification of patients.

IMT OQM™ - Using Order Queue Manager, we automate the routing and translating of electronic orders so that manual data entry doesn’t cause undue complications or delays in getting results back to providers.

While this week’s viral meme is fleeting, good data quality has a lasting impact on healthcare. IMT can help minimize the issues that people face when spelling gets in the way or when typing something that is already stored electronically leads to more mayhem and foolishness.

Whether you are Yanny or Laurel, with IMT on your side, we will make sure that your medical record is correct.