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National Patient Data Matching Strategy: Algorithm Challenge

The announcement last week that ONC will be launching a Patient Matching Algorithm Challenge is the next big step in the health IT community’s efforts to ensure patient safety through advancements in interoperability. 

As a community, we’ve been working on the patient data matching issue for many years.  HIMSS has worked very closely with our friends across the healthcare community to understand the barriers to accurate, efficient matching of patients to their health information. 

Beginning with the work of our Privacy and Security Committee’s Patient Identity Integrity Workgroup,  we published a policy paper that outlined the required “critical business processes”  to ensure the accuracy and integrity of patient data.  Subsequent action culminated in the creation of the HIMSS Innovator in Residence at HHS, which we now know is our very own Adam Culbertson.

The Patient Matching Algorithm Challenge announcement, by ONC’s Steve Posnack with Adam, is the culmination of over two years of important and effective work by Adam to advance the technical aspects of a national patient data matching strategy. 

Throughout the past two years, a recurring theme has emerged: we need clarity and transparency around data algorithms. The glaring unknown for providers, patients, caregivers, and indeed all of us, is whether current algorithms are accurate enough to identify individuals correctly.

The Algorithm Challenge comes at a perfect time for health IT, as we look to improve the level of certainty on patient matching.  As designed, this innovative competition will help algorithm developers test against a common data set to allow for near real-time learning and improvement. When the Algorithm Challenge is complete, we all succeed, because interoperability, patient matching and information-sharing will improve.  

Now that we have taken the next big step on the journey to a national patient data matching strategy, you can help and ask organizations to join the Patient Matching Algorithm Challenge.  ONC is hosting a series of webinars this month, so spread the word!

Let’s work together and make sure we can reach our goal improving health with the best use of IT so that the right information about the right patient reaches the right person at the right time to make informed decisions.