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Patient Matching Issues Hindering 50% of HIM Professionals

“As healthcare professionals, we need to embrace the challenge and collaborate to develop scalable solutions to assure patient information is available when and where it is needed.”

By Sara Heath

More than half of health IT management professionals regularly work on fixing problems with patient matching and duplicate patient records, according to a recent survey from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

patient matching national patient identifier

To further understand data matching issues hindering healthcare information professionals, AHIMA surveyed a total of 815 of its members. The organization plans on using the information collected from the survey to shape its future policy goals and actions toward implementing better patient matching practices, helping the healthcare industry to further understand how a national patient identifier could work to help patient matching.

A national patient identifier (NPI) would serve as an identification number for all patients in the United States and would be used at all healthcare locations. Working similarly to how a Social Security number works for financial records, NPIs would help physicians at any location identify a patient’s records. This would considerably improve patient safety and patient-centered care because it would allow all physicians access to a patient’s full health history, eliminating duplicate patient records or access to the incorrect patient records.

As stated above, the survey found that over half of the respondents reported regular mitigation of duplicate patient records and patient matching problems, with nearly 72 percent of those respondents mitigating these issues on a weekly basis. Additionally, the survey found that only about 47 percent of respondents even have some sort of quality assurance programs set up to ensure that duplicate records aren’t produced.

The survey also determined that several health information management professionals aren’t able to identify their rate of duplicate record making. Only 55 percent of respondents were able to report to AHIMA their rates of duplicate records, and when prompted to disclose the values for the denominator and the numerators, less than half of the respondents were able to share that information. According to AHIMA, this shows that several healthcare organiztions lack standards for how they calculate the rate of duplicate patient records.

Health information management professionals face several other problems when mitigating duplicate patient records, including registration staff turnover, record matching terminology inconsistencies, lack of resources, lack of information governance policies, and lack of executive support in tackling these problems.

Overall, these diverse issues show just how expansive the issue of patient matching is and how important it is to develop an NPI. As such, the survey authors asserted that healthcare professionals need to be responsible for developing resolutions to these problems in order to help improve quality of care and patient-centric care models.

“We cannot sit around and wait for others to correct this problem,” the researchers stated. “As healthcare professionals, we need to embrace the challenge and collaborate to develop scalable solutions to assure patient information is available when and where it is needed.”

Because an NPI would standardize how patients are identified when admitted into a healthcare facility, it would help eliminate problems with patient matching and duplicate patient records. Thus, the survey authors suggest, developing an NPI is a critical piece of the patient matching puzzle.

Several industry professionals are already tackling the issue of patient matching and working on ways to implement an NPI. For example, later this month one of our media partners, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) will be holding its National Patient ID Challenge.

The National Patient ID Challenge will take place on Tuesday, January 19 between noon and 2 p.m., and will challenge information management professionals to think differently about how to implement a national patient identifier.

At this event, health IT professionals will work at a $1 million funded competition to help develop usable solutions to help create a national patient identifier, helping to increase connectivity throughout the healthcare industry and improve quality patient care.

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