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.