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Patient matching and better data standards are crucial to efforts toward improved healthcare interoperability, The Pew Charitable Trusts advised the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in a recent letter to ONC head Donald Rucker.
As ONC develops the trusted exchange framework required by the 21st Century Cures Act passed into law last year, wrote Ben Moscovitch, manager of health information technology at The Pew Charitable Trusts, “we urge you to consider how to address [these] two critical aspects of interoperability.”
Patient matching is the ability of providers to link patients to their health records, even if they are located across multiple locations.
“Researchers have found match rates as low as 50 percent when matching across healthcare facilities,” Moscovitch wrote. “As a result, patients and healthcare providers may lack critical data to inform care decisions due to the inability to correctly link an individual with his or her record.”
In cases where facilities treating the same patient may not share the same data exchange network, providers “must be able to identify and locate their patients’ records even when those records are held by other organizations and in another network,” he said.
“Through improved matching across networks, healthcare facilities can obtain data on their patients to enable care coordination, integrate and reconcile data, and access relevant information to avoid duplication of tests and other services,” Moscovitch said.
Lack of industry-wide data standards also impedes interoperability, according to Pew. For example, one health IT system may document and share clinical data such as vital signs, medications, and laboratory test results in a certain way, but will receive data from another health system in a different format or without key data.
“Achieving the vision of nationwide exchange of information, including across networks, requires that healthcare organizations are able to receive and process the data,” Moscovitch said. “Addressing challenges associated with standards can foster more accurate and robust data sharing so that the information is both available and usable.”