The Sequoia Project, which operates eHealth Exchange, a national health information network, is calling on industry stakeholders along with policy and technical experts to join a new workgroup to find ways to improve and better standardize patient identity matching without using a national patient identification number.

A patient-matching framework is composed of a set of resources and reference materials, including substantial demographic information, to enable a provider organization to correctly identify its patients and to match those patients when they get treated at other provider organizations, explains Mariann Yeager, CEO of Sequoia. It can be done in healthcare, she contends, adding that, “Financial institutions have been doing this for years.”

But in healthcare, poor data quality leads to matching errors, further hampered by varying ways of formatting the information. “It boils down to the registration process and checking to make sure a patient already has a record,” Yeager notes.

Also See: Sequoia Project matching exercise underscores patient ID challenges

The goal of the workgroup will be to establish common issues that relate to appropriate patient matching, and rules to be consistently applied, she adds. Healthcare continues to be an industry of separate organizations each working within their own silo, which further exacerbates appropriate and accurate patient matching. Most organizations identify patients inside their enterprise but don’t think about the other provider down the road.

Consequently, Sequoia seeks nine to 12 workgroup members that want to achieve a standardized way to identify patients across the industry by using existing technologies that can support 95 percent of the work. This, however, will depend on organizations providing adequate resources for the job and management commitment, Yeager says. “You need someone responsible for making it happen with resources available.”

A report, which includes a comprehensive explanation of the need to establish minimally acceptable practices for patient matching, is available here. Persons interested in joining the workgroup can receive an application by emailing admin@sequoiaproject.org.

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