False Identification in the ER

By: NIchole Vrsansky
By: NIchole Vrsansky

More and more people are checking into the emergency room using a fake name. They're trying to get out paying for the visit, but doctors say this could be a dangerous practice.

Dr. John Underwood has treated patients who change their name every time he sees them. It may be a small fib to get out of paying, but, medically, it makes a big difference.

"It makes it much more difficult. If you don't know who you're taking care of, it makes it much more interesting to take care of them appropriately," says Dr. John Underwood, Director of Emergency Services.

Not to mention follow-up with test results or possible discrepancies. Perhaps Dr. Underwood reads an x-ray one way, but later, a radiologist sees something different:

"It's important to contact them back. If we don't know who they are, their address, it makes it very difficult to contact them and give them appropriate care,” says Dr. Underwood.

"We do try to verify by getting a picture ID, but if we don't have anything in writing patient could be giving fake name," says Dianne Schaefer, Clerical Educator for the Emergency Department.

The problem may be getting worse. Dr. Underwood says about 15 percent of those who walk into the emergency room use fake names.

"I've had people who will come back with same complaint two weeks later but with a different name and will deny it," says Dr. Underwood.

The practice is affecting the hospital's bottom lines. They can't collect payment for the visit. But Dr. Underwood says this may get at a larger issue: The difficulty of affording health care.

"Part of our duty, our moral duty, is to help take care of these people. We do that, but it's just that when I do help take care of them if they have a problem, it'd be nice if I could pursue it and make them better.”

OSF St. Anthony says its experienced patients giving false identities, but don't have an exact percentage. Rockford Memorial says this has not been an issue at the hospital as of yet.


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