Free EMR Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to EMR and EHR for FREE!

ONC Releases Findings on Study of Patient-Matching Practices

Posted on February 28, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

The ONC has released findings from its study of patient-matching practices in the private sector and federal agencies.

Its conclusion: standardizing specific demographic fields within health IT systems and broad collaboration on industry best practices are two of the key steps the industry needs to take to make advances in patient matching.

In its study, ONC was looking to describe common data attributes, processes, and best practices to assess the industry’s current capabilities in this area. To do so, it did an environmental scan to get a look at current industry capabilities, literature review, feedback received at public meetings, collaboration with federal partner agencies and written comments stakeholders.

Problems it found include differences in the way names and addresses are formatted in various systems which can lead to high rates of unmatched records.

According to a story in FierceHealthIT, the study’s key recommendations include the following:

* Certification criteria should be introduced that require certified electronic health record technology to capture the data attributes that would be required in the standardized patient identifying attributes
* The ability of additional, non-traditional data attributes to improve patient matching should be studied
*Certification criteria should not be created for patient matching algorithms or require organizations to utilize a specific type of algorithm
*Work with the industry to develop best practices and policies to encourage consumers to keep their information current and accurate is necessary

With these me just at the suggestion stage, it’s evident that patient matching needs more attention.

In the past, the ONC has suggested hospitals create a standardized patient identifier during data transactions to make sure the right patient is matched with the correct information. But that won’t address the problem higher-order problem.

Simply being aware that data mismatches on patients a problem is a good first step, but it looks like we have a long way to go before data can be shared from institution to institution accurately without duplicate records and other errors of this type. Interoperability between institutions which allows for accurate patient matching is the real brass ring.

Direct Project Should Reach Most US States By Summer

Posted on June 25, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

It’s looking like a victory for the Direct Project, the clinical messaging protocol designed to make information sharing easier for providers. ONC reports that state HIE grantees in almost 30 states are using the Direct Project protocol, with a dozen more planning to kick off Direct within the next month or two.

As many readers may know, providers can send Direct Project messages using traditional e-mail.  Messages are packaged using MIME extensions, protected by S/MIME encryption and signatures.  Messages are authenticated on both ends using X.509 digital signatures.  All told, it’s not only a “direct” way of sharing information, it’s a relatively simple one too.

How are providers using Direct?  Here’s a few examples, courtesy of FierceHealthIT:

  • In Florida, hospitals are using Direct to send newborn hearing screening test results to a state agency, which sends back confirmation of the state-mandated screening tests by the same route.
  • In California, Redwood MedNet, an HIE in northern California, and St. Joseph Health System in Orange County are collaborating on a project to use Direct to improve care coordination for newborns
  • In Guam, the Guam HIE and the Department of Veterans Affairs are employing Direct to refer patients to providers for mammograms and are looking to expand the use of the protocol to all referrals.

Enthusiasm for Direct seems to vary across different parts of the country. For example, none of the northeastern states have gone live on Direct yet, while Wisconsin, Delaware, Arkansas Illinois, California, Florida and West Virginia have already signed up 300 or more providers, FHIT notes.

Don’t know about you folks, but I’m excited by this news. I think we’re seeing the beginnings of some really significant change. Yes, like most of us, I’d like to see full-scale, enterprise-class data sharing, but billions of bucks and years of development lay between us in that goal in many cases.  Let’s appreciate what we’ve got, eh?