CHIME discontinues its National Patient ID Challenge, citing unmet expectations

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) has abandoned its National Patient ID Challenge and plans to redirect its efforts into leading a patient identification task force.

Launched two years ago, the global competition sought to identify a solution to ensure the healthcare industry could identify patients in the U.S. with 100% accuracy. In May, CHIME announced four finalists that would compete for a $1 million grand prize. The winner was scheduled to be announced on Nov. 3.

Although the challenge made “great progress and moved the industry forward in many ways,” CHIME CEO Russell Branzell said in an announcement, it “ultimately did not achieve the results we sought to this complex problem.” CHIME spokesperson Candace Stuart told FierceHealthcare the four finalists will receive an honorarium.

“We set an extremely high standard in the Challenge requirements to make that vision a reality,” a statement posted to CHIME’s website read. “While we’ve learned much through the Challenge process, there remains some distance yet to go to, and we feel a new approach is warranted to expedite the goal of achieving a nationwide patient identification solution.”

Stuart added that it became clear the challenge "was not going to get to the ultimate goal in the time frame we needed it." 

RELATED: Successful patient matching pairs technology with outside data sources

CHIME said it plans to pursue another strategy, part of which includes a new multisector Patient Identification Task Force led by the trade group. That is just “one of several initiatives” to ensure patient identification remains a top priority, according to the organization. 

CHIME added that Congress has hinted it will loosen some of its hardline restrictions prohibiting the federal government to support a national patient identifier. Over the summer, lawmakers included patient matching in the Department of Health and Human Services’ 2018 budget. Health IT trade groups, medical associations, and providers have doubled-down on efforts to allow federal agencies to support patient matching solutions.

At least one company was critical of CHIME's decision. In a statement to emailed to FierceHealthcare, Dan Cidon, chief technology officer and co-founder of the healthcare data management company NextGate said CHIME "failed to accurately assess the complexities involved in managing patient identification."

"At a technological level, solutions already exist that largely solve the identification problem," he said. "By placing the emphasis on technology alone, CHIME only managed to confuse the market and make it more difficult for vendors with serious solutions to move the space forward."

Stuart emphasized that the organization needs many more voices to solve what she agreed is a complex problem. She added that CHIME welcomes industry perspective, as well as input from providers and policymakers in Washington, with the ultimate goal of expediting a solution that solves an urgent concern for the organization's membership.

"I would agree that it is definitely a complex problem," she said. "I think that complexity became more realized with time and that’s one reason why we have looked at really getting a lot of different perspectives addressing this issue."

"We welcome having his viewpoint," Stuart said in response to Cidon's criticism. 

RELATED: Senators ask GAO to expand patient matching study

CHIME’s challenge has been closely watched by federal health officials. During a Senate committee hearing late last month to discuss implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act, ONC’s Deputy National Coordinator for Health IT Jon White, M.D., said the agency was encouraged by efforts in the private sector to improve patient matching.

 “We’ve been very closely following the CHIME patient matching challenge with great interest, and we think there are going to be some good approaches on the near horizon,” he told lawmakers.

An ONC spokesperson told FierceHealthcare that patient matching has become an industry-wide priority, and the agency expects solutions like biometrics and machine learning algorithms will improve patient matching moving forward.

Earlier this month, the ONC announced three winners in its own Patient Matching Algorithm Challenge which received thousands of submissions from more than 140 teams. The agency distributed $75,000 in awards to the three companies. ONC National Coordinator Donald Rucker called the challenge “an important step towards better understanding the current landscape.”