Report: Patient Matching Critical to Improving Care Delivery

The costs of not having a nationwide strategy for patient identity management in the healthcare system are high—both financially and in terms of patient safety, according to a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts. However, there are short-term, medium-term, and long-term strategies that individual providers can use to increase the success of their matches.

Pew notes that one reason patient matching rates are difficult to study is because health systems often have different ways of calculating their own rates. One survey cited by Pew found that matching rates within the same facility can be as low as one in five patients being incorrectly matched to information in a facility where they’ve been seen before. Another survey found that a patient matching strategy helped another provider improve its matching rate to 98 percent. But one salient takeaway from the report is that patient matching is a big enough problem that it requires a nationwide strategy and no single method can achieve perfect matching rates.

“First, regardless of the approach taken, a nationwide strategy will require coordination to identify the needed best practices; commitments from health care organizations and technology developers to implement agreed-upon standards; and patient involvement,” the authors wrote. “Second, no solution currently exists that could achieve perfect—or even near-perfect—match rates for all patients, but actions can be taken to better link records. Third, although some opportunities exist to make meaningful, incremental progress in the near term, more robust change will require the use of new approaches and technologies.”

Pew also hosted a panel discussion with patient matching experts discussing the report’s results, and panelists focused on standardization over technology as a means for improving rates, FierceHealthcare reported.

“We talk about standards and standardization,” Shaun Grannis, director of the Regenstrief Center for Biomedical Informatics, said during the panel discussion. “The fact that standards help is not in question. Which standards we get to is the question.”

For example, Regenstrief analyzed Indiana databases and found that standardizing the patient’s last name and their address yielded the highest matching rate compared to the standardization of other data elements. If providers could all agree to standardize these two elements that will help greatly until the nation is able to apply another national effort, such as implementing a national patient safety identifier.

Click here to read the full report.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at Journal of AHIMA.

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