The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives is suspending a $1 million self-funded program it called the National Patient ID Challenge, saying it will continue to pursue solutions to patient identity mismatches but through an expanded initiative.

To great fanfare, CHIME announced the challenge in January 2016 to find an approach that would ensure 100 percent accuracy in ascertaining every patient’s identity in a digital age. Such mismatching of records is a significant patient safety issue, and resolving patient identity uncertainties costs large hospital systems millions of dollars annually.

Now, CHIME contends it can no longer do the work alone, saying it plans to incorporate a wide range of industry stakeholders and expand the pool of expertise via a new Patient Identity Task Force.

Russell Branzell
Russell Branzell

“Though we’ve made great progress and moved the industry forward in many ways through the challenge, we ultimately did not achieve the results we sought to this complex problem,” says Russell Branzell, president and CEO at CHIME.

Critics of the CHIME initiative say the organization was too focused on a purely technological solution to a problem that is multi-faceted and requires deeper study and more complex solutions.

Also See: How to solve the core problem of patient record matching

Patient identity accuracy rates at hospitals can be as low as 80 percent, and the rate falls to 50 percent when hospitals exchange data with another facility, says Ben Moscovitch, manager of health information technology at Pew Charitable Trusts, which aims to improve the safety of EHRs and enhance patient data exchange. The low rates of accuracy can affect patient care and safety as data on another patient could wind up in the electronic health record of another.

CHIME’s new approach to researching patient matching comes as Congress has signaled the possibility of easing restrictions on a national patient identification solution, Branzell notes. For nearly two decades, Congress has annually banned appropriations for efforts to create a national patient identifier.

“We need industry and government to join with us with the same level of passion and commitment that our members show in their positions as CIO and senior health IT executives,” he says.

During the challenge program, CHIME sought ideas on how to solve patient ID problems and received more than 300 submissions on possible solutions from across the globe, according to a CHIME spokeswoman.

Now, funds originally earmarked for the National Patient ID Challenge will be redirected to the new Patient Identification Task Force, a multi-stakeholder entity of volunteers, with information on the task force being released in early 2018, says Keith Fraidenburg, executive vice president and chief operating officer at CHIME.

Over time, CHIME recognized the complexity the patient ID issue and created the new stakeholder task force to bring new views and experiences to the table, including interoperability professionals, public policy groups, innovators and clinicians, among others.

CHIME starts the Patient Identification Task Force phase of the Patient ID Challenge with some ideas already on the table. In June 2016, two winning submissions were selected out of 113 submissions for an initial round of the Challenge. This past May, four finalists advanced to the prototype testing round.

Efforts to find technical solutions through these competitions didn’t really address the whole scope of the problem, contends Daniel Cidon, chief technology officer for NextGate, a company that offers an enterprise master patient index solution. “We feel it brought confusion into the market and was giving the wrong message,” he says. “Healthcare is a complex ecosystem right now, and the biggest problem has to do with data integration—what is the latest information for this patient?”

Cidon also believe the goal of 100 percent verified patient identification was too lofty and would virtually eliminate that a technology solution could hit that mark.

Pew is evaluating several approaches to improving patient identity matching with the goal of releasing findings in 2018, Moscovitch says. Questions being asked include whether standardizing patient name, date of birth and address across multiple EHRs improve matching rates, and if standardized use of demographic data could improve matching.

Moscovitch further is exploring whether patients can be involved in having their identity matched and how that would work, and he is conducting focus groups of patients and providers on their willingness to adopt biometric technologies to improve the accuracy of patient matching.

For example, if a hospital uses palm scans for biometric identity, can those scans be accurately matched with scans at another hospital? To get answers, Moscovitch is researching the willingness of patients to have a palm scan and asking patients how important it is to them to have their records better matched.

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