Pew Calls for ONC to Prioritize Patient Matching, Data Standardization

Aug. 28, 2017
The Pew Charitable Trusts wrote to National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Don Rucker, M.D., asking ONC to prioritize two critical aspects of interoperability – patient matching and data standards – as ONC develops a trusted exchange framework to improve the sharing of health data.

The Pew Charitable Trusts wrote to National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Don Rucker, M.D., asking ONC to prioritize two critical aspects of interoperability – patient matching and data standards – as ONC develops a trusted exchange framework to improve the sharing of health data.

In a letter to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), the Pew Charitable Trusts urged ONC leaders, as they develop the trusted exchange framework, as required by the 21st Century Cures Act passed into law last year, to address patient matching and challenges with data standardization.

“Section 4003 of the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures) directs ONC to develop a framework to support the exchange of data among health information networks, which help healthcare providers share data about patients. This type of interoperability is often referred to as network-to-network exchange. Cures requires that this framework include policies around verifying users of networks, rules for the exchange of information among network participants, and guidance for determining when information should be shared. Effective exchange of information across networks, as envisioned in Cures, could benefit from advances in both patient matching and data standards,” the organization wrote.

The non-profit contends that improvements to patient matching are essential to interoperability, noting that researchers have found patient matching rates as low as 50 percent when matching across healthcare facilities.

Pew said it is conducting research and evaluating solutions to this interoperability problem, such as assessing whether the use of more detailed standards for demographic data—such as name and date of birth—could help enhance match rates. And, the organization is conducting focus groups with patients and interviewing healthcare facilities to understand how they view patient matching, and their perspectives on biometrics and other unique identifiers that could be leveraged for matching.

“As ONC develops a trusted exchange framework, we urge you to consider how to address patient matching between networks and collaborate with the private sector and research organizations on how to ensure that data transmitted can be matched to the right patients,” the organization wrote.

Pew also noted that the use of data standards for clinical data elements, such as vital signs and medications, can hinder interoperability. “Addressing challenges associated with standards can foster more accurate and robust data sharing so that the information is both available and usable,” Pew wrote.

The organization said it is identifying solutions to address challenges with data standards, including those that could be advanced by government or the private sector. “The development of an exchange framework for network-to-network data exchange offers ONC an opportunity to underscore the importance of addressing data standardization as a critical aspect of interoperability,” the organization wrote.

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