CHIME Applauds Federal Action to Consistently and Accurately Match Patients with their Data

Foundational work will improve interoperability, save lives according to healthcare CIOs

ANN ARBOR, MI, September 11, 2013 – The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) applauds the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) as it undertakes an effort to identify challenges and opportunities associated with patient data-matching.  This effort will lead directly to saved lives, improved population health and lower costs, says the nation’s healthcare CIOs.

“Patient data-matching is a foundational component to the exchange of electronic health information – which, in turn, is a critical component for improved care coordination and quality improvement,” said CHIME President and CEO Russell P. Branzell.  “Despite years of development, no clear strategy has emerged to accurately and consistently match patient data.  As we advance interoperability and health information exchange, we are delighted to see ONC take action to ensure the right data is matched with the right patient.  This is a necessary, concrete step to bolster patient safety.”

As health information moves from setting to setting and organization to organization, matching patient data accurately becomes more complex and the potential for misidentification increases.  The federal government has mandated such health information exchange through the EHR Incentive Program, but has not provided such guidance on how organizations ought to approach patient data-matching.

Beginning this fall, ONC will begin an environmental scan of activities looking to identify key concerns associated with mismatches by understanding technology applications and process workflows.  They will be looking at past literature on patient data-matching, Health IT Policy Committee recommendations, and interviewing stakeholders currently engaged with patient data-matching, including:

  • ·         health systems/providers;
  • ·         health information organizations;
  • ·         EHR developers; and
  • ·         HIE solution vendors.

These efforts complement activities currently underway through CHIME StateNet.  Convened in May, StateNet’s Patient Data-Matching Workgroup has constructed a charter document to “take a leadership role in establishing a patient matching policy/strategy that is adopted by federal officials, state policymakers and other relevant audiences, such as the vendor community.”  The workgroup will identify technologies, implementation practices and data integrity mechanisms (e.g. data entry, versioning, etc.) that will ensure the most efficient, scalable and robust mitigation of patient data-matching errors.

“False negative and false positive error rates are unacceptably high, despite new generations of algorithms and biometric technologies,” said Patient Data-Matching Workgroup Chair Ralph Johnson, CIO at Franklin Community Health Network in Farmington, Maine.  “Unintended injury or illness attributable to patient data-matching error is a considerable, and growing, problem in this era of health information exchange.  National leadership and consistent standards in this area will set a floor for safe patient matching that will, in turn, help focus industry activity towards improved patient data-matching.”

Using the StateNet platform, volunteers consisting of individuals with expertise in developing and implementing consensus standards will agree on a roadmap detailing how organizations could adopt recognized standards and guidelines that would be deemed acceptable for assuring accurate patient data-matching.

“Through the StateNet network, CIOs and other health IT stakeholders have a unique opportunity to provide insight and much needed guidance to policymakers on best-practices and strategies to accurately match patient-data in an era of increasing health information exchange,” said Branzell.  “We look forward to results from the work ONC is planning and we hope the synergies of their work and ours can solve the dangerous and costly problem of accurately matching patients with their health data.”

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is an executive organization dedicated to serving chief information officers and other senior healthcare IT leaders. With more than 1,400 CIO members and over 95 healthcare IT vendors and professional services firms, CHIME provides a highly interactive, trusted environment enabling senior professional and industry leaders to collaborate; exchange best practices; address professional development needs; and advocate the effective use of information management to improve the health and healthcare in the communities they serve. For more information, please visit