Enhanced patient matching is critical to achieving full promise of digital health records

Oct. 4, 2018

To address patient matching challenges, The Pew Charitable Trusts conducted research to assess various opportunities to make progress. Following conversations with matching experts and an examination of public reports and documents, Pew evaluated a number of common suggestions, emerging approaches, and other strategies that the private sector and government can take to improve patient matching, including the creation of a unique identifier for patients; the establishment of patient-empowered solutions, enabling each individual to ensure that his or her records are matched; standardization of demographic data, such as addresses; and the use of more information sources to verify a person’s identity, known as referential matching. Pew commissioned studies of key topics, interviewed hospital and clinician executives, held focus groups with patients, heard from experts, and examined the existing literature.

The research revealed common themes. First, regardless of the approach taken, a nationwide strategy will require coordination to identify the needed best practices; commitments from healthcare organizations and technology developers to implement agreed-upon standards; and patient involvement. Second, no solution currently exists that could achieve perfect—or even near-perfect—match rates for all patients, but actions can be taken to better link records. Third, although some opportunities exist to make meaningful, incremental progress in the near term, more robust change will require the use of new approaches and technologies.

This report lays out Pew’s research findings and recommendations, including steps that can be taken in the near term to improve matching and the infrastructure needed for more robust progress in the medium term and long term.

Near-term activities to help make incremental progress include the following: clarification of restrictions on government funding for unique identifiers; agreement on demographic standards; assessment of privacy ramifications; further research on and adoption of referential matching, where third-party data are used; and verification of phone numbers and other identifying information provided by patients to reduce the likelihood of typographical, data-entry, or clerical errors.

Long-term opportunities to develop the infrastructure include the following: entrusting a single organization to oversee a nationwide patient-matching strategy; launching pilot projects for patients to use their smartphones to help match records; and determining the infrastructure and standards necessary for using biometrics and other technologies for effective and secure matching in a way that protects privacy.

Once these recommendations are implemented, clinicians and patients can have more assurance that EHRs contain complete, accurate, and up-to-date medical information—thus improving safety, reducing costs, and better coordinating care for individuals who see multiple medical professionals.

Pew has the full report

Sponsored Recommendations

Enhancing Remote Radiology: How Zero Trust Access Revolutionizes Healthcare Connectivity

This content details how a cloud-enabled zero trust architecture ensures high performance, compliance, and scalability, overcoming the limitations of traditional VPN solutions...

Spotlight on Artificial Intelligence

Unlock the potential of AI in our latest series. Discover how AI is revolutionizing clinical decision support, improving workflow efficiency, and transforming medical documentation...

Beyond the VPN: Zero Trust Access for a Healthcare Hybrid Work Environment

This whitepaper explores how a cloud-enabled zero trust architecture ensures secure, least privileged access to applications, meeting regulatory requirements and enhancing user...

Enhancing Remote Radiology: How Zero Trust Access Revolutionizes Healthcare Connectivity

This content details how a cloud-enabled zero trust architecture ensures high performance, compliance, and scalability, overcoming the limitations of traditional VPN solutions...