Industry Stakeholders Applaud House Report Language on Patient Matching

Washington, DC – October 5, 2016 – Nearly two dozen healthcare organizations today sent a letter encouraging House appropriators to advance legislative report language that could remove barriers to the Department of Health and Human Services engaging with the private sector to develop solutions ensuring that patients are accurately identified and matched to the correct medical record when they seek care.

Inaccurate patient identification and errors in patient matching can lead to serious medical mistakes and are major barriers to improving the quality and efficiency of care across the continuum. House appropriators highlighted this challenge in report language accompanying the Fiscal 2017 Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill, labelling the “lack of a consistent patient data matching strategy” as one of the “most significant challenges” to safe and secure electronic health information exchange.

HHS has for the past two decades been prohibited from using funds to promulgate a rule or standards around patient identification. Although the appropriations bill retains the ban on finalizing a rule around patient identification, clarifying HHS’s latitude to work with the private sector on a solution to patient matching would mark a significant step forward. The letter urges House and Senate Appropriators to ensure the report language accompanies future Labor-HHS Appropriations Bills.

“We’ve made great progress in digitizing the nation’s healthcare system,” said CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell. “But if we are going to improve patient safety and care from one provider setting to another, we must be able to ensure with 100 percent accuracy that we properly identify patients and match them to their records and not a different John Doe. The report language is a recognition that patients deserve to know that the information in their electronic health record (EHR) belongs to them and that it contains all relevant information necessary for informed clinical decision making.”

“In a system that provides care to over 300 million Americans and handles billions of data transactions annually, no healthcare task is more important than matching patients with their correct health information.  Public-private cooperation in carrying out a national strategy for accurately identifying patients will strengthen our healthcare system’s safety, quality, and cost-efficiency, ” said Healthcare Leadership Council President Mary R. Grealy.

“Accurately matching health information to the correct patient is crucial to reducing potential patient safety risks and improving nationwide health information exchange.  Allowing public-private collaboration will encourage an open discussion and help foster a solution that is cost-effective and scalable while ensuring that appropriate privacy controls are in place to protect patient privacy,” said Lynne Thomas Gordon, CEO, American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

“The lack of a national strategy to ensure patients are accurately matched to their health information threatens to stall the great progress the healthcare community has made in leveraging information technology to drive improvements in care delivery and health outcomes for patients.  In order to move forward, all parties must be at the table focused on developing solutions. This report language marks an important step by House Appropriators in making this possible,” said Carla Smith, Executive Vice President, HIMSS North America.

Media Contacts:

Matthew Weinstock

Kelly Fernandez
Healthcare Leadership Council

Joyce Lofstrom
HIMSS North America