An increasing need to have accurate patient records at the location of their healthcare treatment is being met with inconsistent results. Electronic health records (EHRs) can give clinicians vital information regarding medications, treatments, and laboratory reports. But without accurate patient matching and their data collated from different care destinations, the work becomes aggravatingly difficult. Most dire issues arise when the records produced by these healthcare facilities do not match the correct patient. These can cause medical distress, incorrect treatments and also increase cost for patients in question.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), the federal agency that oversees EHRs, has attempted to address these matching challenges from the 2016 21st Century Cures Act. Technology developers to health care providers have come forward to support critical concepts: requiring the use of better standards for demographic data already collected, such as adoption of the U.S. Postal Services (USPS) standard for addresses; and integrating other information—such as emails—to enhance matching across EHRs.
Publication of research earlier this year from Indiana University found that using the USPS system can really help in regulating practices. Multiples in thousands data can be matched and linked. An organization with a match rate of 85 percent, for example, could see its unlinked records reduced by 20 percent with standardizing addresses alone. The research further revealed that standardizing last name in conjunction with address could improve match rates from approximately 81 percent to 91 percent, which would reduce the number of unmatched records by half.
USPS standard has garnered nationwide support from organizations including the American Medical Association, American Health Information Management Association, American Medical Informatics Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, Medical Group Management Association, and College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). EHR developers, technology vendors, and other groups that help exchange patient data also urged for the change, including Apple, Inc., CommonWell Health Alliance, Epic Systems Corp., and Surescripts LLC, as well as America’s Health Insurance Plans.