Inadequate Patient ID Elements Hindering Health Information Exchange

In their rush implement electronic health records (EHRs), many healthcare systems gave little consideration to how patient identity elements were entered into new electronic systems. The lack of standards for entering such data inhibits data flow in the context of health information exchange, according to security experts. A new white paper offers patient matching strategies to help facilitate information exchange in conjunction with new federally proposed guidelines.

“One of the largest unresolved issues in the safe and secure electronic exchange of health information is a nationwide patient data matching strategy that would ensure the accurate, timely, and efficient matching of patients with their healthcare data across different systems and settings of care,” wrote the authors of a white paper called “Patient Matching in Health Information Exchanges,” published recently in Perspectives in Health Information Management (PHIM). The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) echoed these concerns in June of this year with its release of its 10-year vision to achieve an interoperable health information technology infrastructure.

As the PHIM authors note, a patient matching error poses significant safety and prevents health information exchange—at the state, local, and nation levels—from being successful. Proposals that involve issuing a unique patient identifier, such as a number, has long been met with resistance over who, exactly, maintains control over the number.

The PHIM authors have proposed a nationwide standard to assist in achieving interoperable HIE. They’ve proposed standardization of the following elements:

  • Primary and secondary data elements
  • The use of industry-recognized data definitions
  • Elimination of free text, except for the name
  • Separate data entry for data elements


Click here to read the full white paper.


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