AHIMA: EHR patient matching problems 'routine'

Providers continue to struggle regularly with patient matching issues and duplicative records in their electronic health records, according to a new survey in the Journal of AHIMA, a publication of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

The survey, of 815 AHIMA members, found that more than half (57 percent) of respondents worked routinely on mitigating the effects of patient matching problems, including quality checks, reconciliation and feedback mechanisms. Of those, 72 percent had to deal with the problem weekly.

Compounding the problem was that less than half of respondents (47 percent) had a quality assurance step in their registration or post registration processes that might have helped. Only 55 percent were able to communicate the duplicate medical record rate, and even those respondents lacked a standard definition for duplicate rate calculation.

Twelve different types of EHR systems were represented in the survey.

The top problems respondents shared regarding management of their master patient index included registration staff turnover, lack of resources to correct duplicates, record matching/patient search terminology and/or algorithms, and lack of executive support.

"Reliable and accurate calculation of the duplicate rate is foundational to developing trusted data, reducing potential patient safety risks and measuring return on investments for strategic healthcare initiatives. ... We cannot sit around and wait for others to correct this problem," the survey's authors said. "As healthcare professionals, we need to embrace the challenge and collaborate to develop scalable solutions to assure patient information is available when and where it is needed."

The matching of patients to their electronic health data is a major safety issue. It's also vital to patient centric care, the linking of a patient's data across the care continuum, population health, analytics and lowering healthcare costs. Patient identification may be the biggest challenge to safe health data exchange, which is a major component of not only the Meaningful Use program, but also of health reform and value-based payments. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT announced a patient matching initiative to identify best patient matching practices in 2013.

To learn more:
- read about the survey