Patient matching findings released

Lee Stevens and Kate Black | February 21, 2014

Today, we released findings on the current state of patient matching systems and programs as a part of ONC’s Patient Matching Initiative.

The findings are the result of a collaborative initiative developed to describe common data attributes, processes, and best practices currently in use among private sector health care delivery systems and federal agencies in an effort to improve patient matching across disparate systems.

Patient matching processes are already being used to improve patient safety and clinical care across disparate health systems and to address continuity of care among patients who receive care from more than one provider.  Patients often have medical records in multiple locations including hospitals, physician practices, laboratories, pharmacies and other settings. One of the largest unresolved issues in the safe and secure electronic exchange of health information is the need for a nationwide patient data matching strategy ensuring the accurate, timely, and efficient matching of patients with their healthcare data across different systems and settings of care.

Based on an environmental scan, a literature review, feedback received at public stakeholder meetings, collaboration with federal partner agencies and written comments received, the “Patient Matching Current State report” describes the following findings:

  1. Standardized patient identifying attributes should be required in the relevant exchange transactions.
  2. Any changes to patient data attributes in exchange transactions should be coordinated with organizations working on parallel efforts to standardize healthcare transactions.
  3. Certification criteria should be introduced that require certified EHR technology (CEHRT) to capture the data attributes that would be required in the standardized patient identifying attributes.
  4. The ability of additional, non-traditional data attributes to improve patient matching should be studied.
  5. Certification criteria should not be created for patient matching algorithms or require organizations to utilize a specific type of algorithm.
  6. Certification criteria that requires CEHRT to perform patient matching demonstrates the ability to generate and provide to end users reports that detail potential duplicate patient records should be considered.
  7. Build on the initial best practices that emerged during the environmental scan by convening industry stakeholders to consider a more formal structure for establishing best practices for the matching process and data governance.
  8. Work with the industry to develop best practices and policies to encourage consumers to keep their information current and accurate.
  9. Work with healthcare professional associations and the ONC Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience (SAFER) Guide initiative to develop and disseminate educational and training materials detailing best practices for accurately capturing and consistently verifying patient data attributes.
  10. Continue collaborating with federal agencies and the industry on improving patient identification and matching processes.

The findings included in the report, conducted by Audacious Inquiry, will help to form continuing discussions within ONC and with ONC’s Health IT Policy and Standards Committees.

Read the full Patient Matching Current State report [PDF – 2.9 MB].