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Patient Matching Standards Development Goes Viral

Last February, the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) released its findings on the state of patient matching systems and programs as a part of the ONC’s Patient Matching Initiative. Launched in 2013, the program was created to improve patient matching across disparate systems through collaborative efforts to identify common data attributes, processes, and best practices currently in use by healthcare organizations and federal agencies. The “Patient Identification and Matching Final Report” focused on 10 areas in need of improvement, including the creation of standardized patient identifying attributes, coordination between organizations exchanging patient data, EHR certification criteria and higher standards for matching processes best practices.

However, identifying areas for improvement is just the first step. Healthcare’s dedication to resolving patient matching issues is measured by the action taken. Now, nearly two years later, the question is:  What efforts are underway to translate the ONC report into action?

Early activity was, at best, minimal, until March 2015, when a trickle of progress was initiated. Leaders from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) sidestepped congressional roadblocks by launching a national challenge whereby organizations or groups were given the opportunity to compete to find a universal solution for accurately matching patients with their healthcare information. With prize money totaling $1 million dollars, it is CHIME’s hope that the winning organization or group will develop a solution that can be scaled nationally and become a universalized solution in this area.

CHIME’s National Patient ID Challenge is an example of a large-scale effort to resolve a significant obstacle to the interoperability roadmap established by the ONC and move forward with the improvements suggested over a year ago.

Smaller, but equally impactful, actions are underway throughout the industry.  We at Just Associates are also doing our part to advance the Patient Matching Initiative’s suggested improvements by lending our expertise to the initiatives that are driving creation of an industry-wide approach to patient matching.

Just Associates’ experts continually participate in several key state and national association boards and task forces that the ONC relies on for accurate and up-to-date information regarding patient matching. This includes the contributions of Just Associates CEO and president, Beth Just, who was a key player in the creation of the healthcare industry’s information governance framework as part of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) Information Governance Principals for Healthcare™ (IGPHC) Task Force.

Released in late 2014, the IGPHC is a framework that establishes a foundation of best practices for information governance programs. This framework centers on eight guidelines based upon the principals of accountability, transparency, integrity, protection, compliance, availability, retention and disposition.

Also contributing to the search for patient matching standards is Just Associates’ Susan Lucci, RHIA, CHPS, CHDS, who was part of AHIMA-Integrating the Health Enterprise (IHE) Task Force that contributed expertise on the alignment of HIM practices and capabilities of health information systems through HIT standards, which led to the publication of the IHE IT Infrastructure White Paper, “Health IT Standards for Health Information Management (HIM) Practices.” The paper which includes patient matching standards and best practices. Currently, IHE is evaluating the result of the public comment period, which closed in late July.

Lucci also serves on the AHIMA Enterprise Information Management Practice Council, which advises AHIMA on emerging issues related to Enterprise Information Management (EIM) and Information Governance with the aim of having the organization become the trusted authority and recognized as the “gold standard” for principles, models and best practices related to Information Governance in healthcare.

Finally, Megan and Susan are also on the Health Information Technology (HIT) Standards for HIM Practice sub-committee, which defines HIM practices that can be supported by HIT products, specify HIM Practice Use Cases for standards-based HIT products and develop a roadmap for filling existing standards and practice needs gaps by prioritizing Use Cases.

With the help and guidance of organization such as CHIME, AHIMA and Just Associates, seasoned patient matching experts are helping develop and deliver a cohesive, standardized approach to information governance.