ONC Initiates Patient Matching Project

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) announced on September 11th that it will begin a collaborative project to identify the common denominators and best practices being used by private sector healthcare delivery systems and Federal agencies for patient matching.  Patient safety, care coordination, and efficiency will be improved by identifying and recommending standardization of the basic attributes most commonly used.  The Patient Matching Initiative will focus on two specific objectives:

  • Identifying the common attributes that achieve high positive match rates across disparate systems. The attributes may include common fields such as name, date of birth, address, sex, cell phone number and new criteria such as emergency contact and insurer.
  • Defining the processes and best practices that are most effective to support high positive patient matching rates utilizing these attributes.

To inform the next steps of the Patient Matching Initiative, environmental scans and literature reviews will be administered. The Initiative will conclude later in 2013 with participants presenting a list of recommendations to the National Coordinator for Health IT for consideration.

HIMSS is a partner in this initiative, along with more than 20 federal agencies and associations including CHIME, the Bipartisan Policy Center, HealtheWay, the EHR/HIE Interoperability Work Group, state and local health information exchanges, and others. 

This project is the culmination of over four years of efforts by HIMSS, CHIME, AHIMA, and a number of other health IT organizations to advance the issue of a “Consistent Nationwide Patient Data Matching Strategy.”  Patient Data Matching has been among HIMSS' top three Congressional Asks the last three years, including this year. 

HIMSS also issued a 2009 white paper titled:  Patient Identity Integrity; A White Paper by the HIMSS Patient Identity Integrity Work Group.  Between 8 and 14 percent of electronic health records have patient identity errors, according to a 2008 RAND Corporation study of the issue.  These errors are a major patient safety issue and cost driver.  Misidentifying patients, incomplete records, multiple records for the same patient, more than one patients’ information in the same record, false negative and false positive identifications are safety and quality of care issues and totally unacceptable.  Additionally, healthcare organizations, payers, and the government spend millions of dollars annually correcting these errors. 

ONC’s focus on this issue is an acknowledgement that technology has advanced significantly since the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) first required a “patient identifier for health,” as well as of the magnitude of the adverse safety and costs consequences.