Posted in EHRs

Finding no 'silver bullet,' RAND urges multiple approaches to matching patient records

Chris Nerney
Chris Nerney, Contributing Writer |
Finding no 'silver bullet,' RAND urges multiple approaches to matching patient records

The vast majority of healthcare providers today use electronic health records (EHRs) to store patient data and share that data with other providers. But EHRs and interoperability can’t guarantee that providers are able to reliably match patients with their health records.
A new study by the RAND Corporation suggests that multiple patient-empowered approaches to record matching could help providers ensure they have the right records for the patients in question.
While researchers were tasked with selecting a promising solution to further develop and test, they were unable to “identify a ‘silver bullet’ or achieve consensus on a single solution,” the study report said.
Instead, they recommend a three-stage approach to 1) improve the quality of identity information 2) establish new smartphone app functionality to facilitate bidirectional exchange of identity information and health care data between patients and providers, and 3) create advanced functionality to further increase value.
More specifically, the researchers identified and evaluated 10 “potential patient-empowered solutions to improve record matching”:

  • Implementing a voluntary universal identifier
  • Using a public key as an identifier
  • Expanding the use of existing government-issued identifiers
  • Adding knowledge-based identity information
  • Adding biometric data
  • Having patients verify identity information
  • Using consumer-directed exchange
  • Using health record banks
  • Having patients manually verify record matches
  • Having patients supply record location information

Researchers said they “found notable strengths and weaknesses with every solution and, on balance, a reasonable argument could be made to further develop most of them.”
Enabling these solutions, the study concluded, would require developing technical specifications for verified data fields, application programming interfaces (APIs) and best practices for bidirectional communication between a smartphone app and provider patient registration systems, and advanced app functionality to improve record matching.
The RAND study was sponsored by Pew Charitable Trusts.