ONC officials: Patient matching will be a challenge

Matching patients to their electronic data is a high priority but a challenge for the industry according to officials with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, reporting on their initial findings of their patient matching initiative at a meeting/webinar held Dec. 16. 

"It's not just what's needed for Meaningful Use but what we need for this industry to move forward," said Judy Murphy (right), deputy national coordinator for programs and policy at ONC, who added that there is no "one size fits all solution" to patient matching.

Lee Stevens, policy director for ONC's State Health Information Exchange Program, said that some current barriers to patient matching include incorrect formatting within data fields, mistakes in data entry, the inability of smaller organizations to afford patient matching capabilities, and patient engagement that has not yet sufficiently evolved.

Doug Fridsma (left), chief science officer and director of science and technology at ONC, added that patient matching needs to occur not only across the continuum, but also across different regions, which also enhances its difficulty.

ONC announced its patient matching initiative to identify best patient matching practices in September. The government's initial findings include:

  • There needs to be standardized patient identifier content in the relevant exchange transactions
  • Certification criteria should be introduced that requires certified electronic health record technology to capture the data attributes
  • Stakeholders should study the ability of additional, nontraditional data attributes to improve patient matching, such as place of birth, which EHRs currently don't capture
  • Open source algorithms that could be used by vendors to test patient matching should be developed or supported
  • Initial best practices on data governance and quality need to be developed, as well as best practices and policies to encourage consumers to keep their information current and accurate.

"We're excited about this project," Murphy said. "We're very eager to get this solidified."