ONC Releases Report Updating Its Patient Matching Initiative

February 24, 2014 in News

On Friday, HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released a report with details on its patient-matching initiative, Health Data Management ¬†reports (Goedert, Health Data Management, 2/23).


In September of 2013, ONC announced it would launch a collaborative project to determine “common denominators and best practices” used by private health systems and federal agencies for matching patients with their data during health information exchange (iHealthBeat, 12/23/13).

Report Details

For the report — titled “Patient Matching Current State” — researchers conducted an environmental scan and a literature review, and used feedback from stakeholders, federal partner agencies and written comments (Black/Stevens, “Health IT Buzz,” ONC, 2/21). The findings will help inform future discussions between ONC and stakeholders, according to Health Data Management.¬†

The ONC report included some details on certification criteria. It found:

  • Certified EHR technology should be required to gather the data attributes needed in the standardized patient identifying attributes;
  • Certification criteria for patient-matching algorithms or those requiring organizations to use a specific type of algorithm are unnecessary; and
  • Certification criteria for EHRs should include a requirement that EHR systems be able to identify duplicate patient records.

The report also suggests:

  • Asking industry stakeholders to consider a more formal structure for developing patient matching and data governance best practices;
  • Working with the industry to develop best practices and policies to encourage U.S. residents to keep their personal health data accurate and up-to-date;
  • Collaborating with health care professional associations and the ONC Safety Assurance Factors for the EHR Resilience Guide initiative to create and distribute educational and training materials on best practices for capturing and verifying patient data;
  • Continuing to work with federal agencies and the industry to enhance patient identification and matching processes;
  • Coordinating any changes to patient data attributes in exchange transactions¬† with organizations working on similar initiatives to standardize health care transactions; and
  • Studying the ability of additional, non-traditional data attributes to improve patient matching (Health Data Management, 2/23).

The report states that its 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” (Hall, FierceHealthIT, 2/21).

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