Patient Identity Matching Progress Analyzed by ONC Report

Patient Matching graphicAfter years of sitting on the healthcare industry’s back-burner, the topic of universal patient identification was moved to the forefront of discussion with a report issued by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). The ONC report, released on February 21, features the latest findings on the current state of patient identification and matching systems and programs. The report was prepared as part of ONC’s Patient Matching Initiative.

The findings in the report draw from feedback received during an environmental scan on the issue, as well as an intensive literature review on patient matching. AHIMA representatives took part in the environmental scan portion of the review. Quantitative analysis of the findings was not done.

The findings and industry recommendation listed in the report include:

  1. Standardized patient identifying attributes should be required in relevant exchange transactions.
  2. Any changes to patient data attributes in exchange transactions should be coordinated with organizations working on parallel efforts to standardize healthcare transactions.
  3. Certification criteria should be introduced that require certified EHR technology to capture the data attributes that would be required in the standardized patient identifying attributes.
  4. The ability of additional, non-tradition attributes to improve patient matching should be studied.
  5. Certification criteria should not be created for patient matching algorithms or require organizations to utilize a specific type of algorithm.
  6. For certified EHR technology that can perform patient matching, certification criteria should be considered that requires EHRs to demonstrate the ability to generate and provide to end users reports that detail potential duplicate patient records.
  7. Build on the initial best practices that emerged during the environmental scan by convening industry stakeholders to consider a more formal structure for establishing best practices for the matching process and data governance.
  8. Work with the industry to develop best practices and policies that encourage consumers to keep their information current and accurate.
  9. Work with healthcare professional associations and the Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience (SAFER) Guide initiative to develop and disseminate educational and training materials detailing best practices for accurately capturing and consistently verifying patient data attributes.
  10. Continue collaborating with federal agencies and the industry on improving patient identification and matching processes.


The executive summary of the report outlined four guiding principles for the patient identification and matching initiative:

  1. Patient safety is the driving force behind improving patient matching
  2. Real-world impacts on administrative workflows and clinical staff should be taken into consideration
  3. Because it is a complex issue, patient matching improvements will be multifaceted and continue to evolve
  4. Potential improvements should be applicable to all sizes and types of provider settings, as well as a range of health IT adoption levels and a broad set of “use cases”


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1 Comment

  1. I read with interest the Patient Identification and Matching final report in AHIMA on line journal. As a Health Information Manager from Australia I am keen to know if AHIMA have developed any Practice Briefs for local use in hospitals to improve data quality and eliminate mismatching and duplicates.

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