The exchange of health information across care settings is a central and necessary component of coordinated, accountable, patient-centered models of care that are shown to improve quality and reduce costs.
Rapidly emerging new delivery system and payment approaches with leadership by the federal government, the private sector, and the states, combined with requirements of the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs, are accelerating the need for information to flow electronically between the multiple settings in which care and services are delivered.
Enabling a clinician to view a comprehensive picture of the patient requires accurate and efficient “matching” of individual patients to their health records across settings. Currently there is a high level of variability in approaches utilized for matching, with little information available about performance--or levels of accuracy. Error rates, which average eight percent and can range up to 20 percent—can result in sub-optimal care and medical errors. Incorrectly matching a patient to a health record may also have privacy and security implications, such as wrongful disclosure—in addition to treatment based on another patient’s health information. Current methods for matching patient data place significant burden and cost on the health care system.
Given the foundational role that patient matching plays in electronic health information sharing, several actions are needed—summarized below--to support improvements in both the accuracy and execution of methods used to match patients to their health records. This will help to assure that information is available to support the requirements of coordinated, accountable, patient-centered care.
- Developing and adopting standards to enable consistency in approach, including standardizing the data fields used, the content within those fields, and methods for validation
- Developing and implementing methods for sharing best practices and approaches
- Moving toward shared services across multiple entities
- Assessing the feasibility, impact and level of acceptance for a unique identifier, which can be voluntary and consumer-directed
The issue brief, Challenges and Strategies for Accurately Matching Patients to Their Health Data, describes why accurately matching patient data is so important and so challenging, and examines alternative strategies to move forward toward solutions to those challenges.