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An Update on the AHIMA Project US@ Companion Guide

By Rachel Podczervinski, MS, RHI, identity integrity services, Just Associates

During the AHIMA21 virtual conference, I participated on the “Translating Technical Address Specifications into Operational Best Practice and Guidance for Project US@: ONC and AHIMA Joint Project” panel providing an update on development of the Project US@ Companion Guide that was released on Jan. 7, 2022 along with the final version 1.0 of the Project US@ Technical Specification.

The companion guide, developed by AHIMA in conjunction with ONC, is an important aspect of the Project US@ collaboration with standards development organizations and other interested stakeholders to issue a unified, cross-standards specification for patient addresses. The standard describes how address numbers, street names and other elements of a patient address should be formatted and abbreviated in a patient’s EHR and describe what special characters can be used.

The companion guide contains operational guidance and best practices related to accurate and timely capture and management of patient addresses that support conformance to the Project US@ Technical Specification and improved patient matching.

My fellow panelists and I discussed the importance of providing hospitals and health systems with guidance on effectively and consistently capturing uniform patient addresses. The reality is that data standards are critical not only for uniformity but also to eliminate discrepancies that can prevent even the most advanced algorithms from reconciling patients to their data. 

A highly mobile population – by some estimates as much as 12% of the U.S. population changes addresses each year – is a significant contributing factor to the industry’s persistent patient matching problem. The standard and companion guide are the first step in ensuring collection of structured patient address data. Next is getting buy-in from EHR technology and other developers.

Regarding the guide, it is designed to help technical experts who may want to reference it when implementing system changes and provides specifics for what operational teams need. It helps navigate outlier cases for address types outside the regular home address, with helpful examples of proper formatting. Finally, the companion guide incorporates some samples for questions and recommendations about how to establish registration processes that operationalize the technical specifications, as well as prompting questions registrars should be asking. 

Release of both the final standard and companion guide mark a significant milestone in the quest to resolve the complex challenges of patient identification and patient matching. We’re proud to be part of this important initiative and look forward to sharing the guide with you in the future.