ONC tackles patient matching problem

September 11, 2013 in Medical Technology

In a bid to smooth data exchange between disparate technology systems, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has launched a collaborative project to seek out common denominators and best practices being used for patient matching by private healthcare systems and other federal agencies.

By identifying and recommending standardization of the attributes most commonly used for matching, the project aims to improve patient safety, care coordination and efficiency, wrote Lee Stevens, policy director for ONC’s State HIE Program.

Stevens said the initiative will focus on two objectives related to patient matching.

First, it seeks to define common attributes that achieve high positive match rates across disparate systems. “These 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,” he wrote.

Second, the project hopes to define the processes and best practices that are most effective to support high positive patient matching rates utilizing these attributes.

Environmental scans and widespread literature reviews will be conducted to inform the next steps in the Patient Matching Initiative, says Stevens. Partners in the ONC project will include the Federal Health Architecture – which comprises more than 20 federal agencies, including the Departments of Health Human Services, Defense and Veterans Affairs – and organizations such as HIMSS, CHIME, the Bipartisan Policy Center, HealtheWay, the EHR/HIE Interoperability Work Group.

In a separate statement, CHIME lauded the patient matching effort, saying it lead to saved lives, improved population health and lower costs.


“Patient data-matching is a foundational component to the exchange of electronic health information – which, in turn, is a critical component for improved care coordination and quality improvement,” said CHIME President and CEO Russell P. Branzell. “Despite years of development, no clear strategy has emerged to accurately and consistently match patient data. s we advance interoperability and health information exchange, we are delighted to see ONC take action to ensure the right data is matched with the right patient. This is a necessary, concrete step to bolster patient safety.”


Officials said the initiative complements activities currently underway through CHIME’s StateNet, whose Patient Data-Matching Workgroup has developed a charter document to “take a leadership role in establishing a patient matching policy/strategy that is adopted by federal officials, state policymakers and other relevant audiences, such as the vendor community.”

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