ONC releases recommendations for improving patient matching

Delivering on an initiative that started last fall, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT on Friday released findings of its study of patient-matching practices in the private sector and federal agencies.

ONC was looking to describe common data attributes, processes, and best practices through an environmental scan to assess current industry capabilities, a literature review, feedback received at public stakeholder meetings, collaboration with federal partner agencies and written comments.

The problems include differences in the way names and addresses are formatted in various systems that can lead to high rates of unmatched records. Driven by concerns for patient safety, the review looked at both technical and human processes.

Among the study's findings:

  • Certification criteria should be introduced that require certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) 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

The report looks at practices among an array of stakeholders, including health systems, EHR vendors and organizations. The findings "suggest the standardization of specific demographic fields within health information systems, broad collaboration on industry best practices that could both inform policy and be shared nationally, and areas for further study where additional advances could be made in the future," the report states.

The report will be used for continuing discussions within the ONC and with ONC's Health IT Policy and Standards Committees, according to a Health IT Buzz blog post.

After a December update on the patient-matching initiative, FierceEMR's Marla Durben Hirsch wondered why ONC had taken the unique patient identifier was off the table. She advocated at least having that discussion.

To learn more:
- find the report (.pdf)
- here's the blog post

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