ONC Kicks Off Project Developing Unified Specs for Patient Addresses

The ONC has announced plans to develop the unified specification for the use of addresses in healthcare. The new effort, Project US@, whose goal is to issue a unified, cross-SDO, healthcare industry-wide specification for representing addresses, will launch formally at the start of 2021.  You may remember we talked about using a patient’s address to help solve the patient identification problem back in April during our National Patient Identifier conversation.

The ONC is conducting the program in collaboration with HL7, the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs, and X12, along with other standards development organizations and members of the Health Standards Collaborative.

Among the standards managed by HL7, NCPDP, and X12 there are already fields for address, but the approach chosen to represent it is typically left to the implementer, noted Steven Posnack, the deputy national coordinator in a recent blog post. In a recent blog item, he points out that while the United States Postal Service Publication 28 is often used as a starting point, address implementers use a variety of free and commercial third-party tools, resources and methods to establish standards for addresses.

Even though they may be using a single starting point, the differences in their interpretation of address standards can create problems. “Project US@ is reflective of how subtle improvements in health IT can have a big impact when implemented on a national scale,” Posnack wrote. “By doing this together, we will be able to establish a lasting, industry-wide approach to representing patient address that is consistent across the spectrum of clinical administrative transactions.”

Given how much trouble the healthcare industry has with patient matching, it can only be a good idea to see to it that patient addresses are correct. As things stand problems with patient matching are among the most dangerous hidden problems the industry faces today.

The announcement follows on what looks like some promising news regarding matching people across various payers.  The Sequoia Project recently announced that the patient matching framework it released in 2018 had helped payers within the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association achieve a 99.5 percent accuracy rate when matching members to their records. The algorithmic matching process was designed to improve how its 36 BCBS companies matched member health data between each other.

According to a report in Modern Healthcare, the association accomplished this feat by creating a new member-matching algorithm built on the Sequoia Project framework for cross-organizational patient identity management.

The proprietary algorithm assigns a unique identification number to each individual patient, which is then shared with individual BCBS organizations. This allows the participating Blues to perform tasks such as requesting data from peers from which a member previously received services.

What do you think of the effort to establish an address standard for patient identification?

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

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