Getty Images/iStockphoto

National Patient Identifier Coalition Launches Strategic Framework

The national patient identifier group wants the federal government to help boost patient matching, patient safety, and security.

Patient ID Now, a national patient identifier coalition of over 40 healthcare organizations, has called on the federal government to collaborate with the private sector and public health organizations to create and implement a national strategy to enhance patient matching, according to a recently published framework.

Patient matching is when there is a link between patient records across various healthcare providers. A patient visiting two different doctors or two separate health facilities should yield the same patient medical history. However, the data proves otherwise.

Robust patient matching lowers costs, increases patient safety, improves clinical decision-making, and fosters care coordination, healthcare experts have said.

“Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to address patient misidentification throughout the health ecosystem,” AHIMA CEO Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, said in a statement.

“Accurate identification of patients is one of the most difficult operational issues during a public health emergency, and the nationwide response to the pandemic, including the rollout of the vaccination programs, has highlighted the repercussions of not having a nationwide strategy to connect patients with their data.”

The Framework for a National Strategy on Patient Identity outlined several actions for HHS to consider if it wants to develop a national strategy. The recommendations circle around accurate patient matching identification and match rates, data quality, interoperability, privacy, standardization, and health equity and inclusion.

Some coalition recommendations include:

  • Defining a minimum standardized patient data set to boost patient identification and matching
  • Leveraging public and private sector resources to address patient privacy, including the Office for Civil Rights, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Privacy by Design, and the Self-Sovereign Identity
  • Providing standards and guidance on calculating error rates across healthcare organizations
  • Identifying baseline accuracy levels

“The lack of a national strategy to improve patient identification and matching continues to put patients at risk and compromises our response to public health emergencies, as the current COVID-19 pandemic has painfully revealed,” said Blair Childs, Premier Inc. senior vice president of Public Affairs.

“Advancing policies laid out in this framework will improve the nation’s pandemic response and overall public safety. It will also remove obstacles to care coordination and nationwide interoperability, as well as save millions in associated costs for the healthcare system.”

Some vaccination sites reported denying vaccines because EHRs have misidentified patients as not having a first vaccine, Patient ID Now said.

Although patient safety is a significant issue, a lack of stable patient matching can also present financial issues for providers. Duplicated patient records during vaccine deployment have cost providers roughly $12,000 per day to fix patient matching errors, the coalition said.

“The need for accurate patient identification is a critical public health and safety issue,” said Ryan Smith, Intermountain Healthcare vice president and chief information officer.

“Release of this Framework for a National Strategy on Patient Identity is an important step forward toward an effective national strategy on patient identification,” Smith added. “This essential but missing functionality would add significantly to providers’ ability to manage care safely, and if it were in place, it would assist in effectively battling the coronavirus. We look forward to working with our colleagues to achieve an effective nationwide strategy that will enable patients to be accurately identified to their health information.”

Some health leaders have said a national patient identifier number could help address patient matching challenges. Six major healthcare organizations collaborated in July 2020 to create an NPI program and boost patient matching by leveraging Congressional legislation and regulations.

American College of Surgeons, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), Intermountain Healthcare, and Premier Healthcare Alliance joined forces to create the coalition.

“HIMSS and our members have long advocated for advancing a nationwide patient matching strategy, concluded Hal Wolf, HIMSS president and CEO. “Throughout the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to address the issue of patient identification. The inability to accurately match patients with their records has severe patient safety and financial implications, and impedes health information exchange.”

Next Steps

Dig Deeper on Interoperability in healthcare

Cloud Computing
Mobile Computing