AHIMA takes on patient identifier

'Part of information governance is making sure you've got the right patient'
By Bernie Monegain
10:12 AM
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The need for healthcare systems to exchange patient information quickly, affordably and safely makes a national patient-matching program critical, say AHIMA leaders who made their case Wednesday before an audience of their peers at the American Health Information Management Association's 87th Annual Convention and Exhibit.

AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon couldn't agree more.

"This next year, our advocacy efforts will be around a voluntary health safety identifier because part of information governance is making sure you've got the right patient," she told Healthcare IT News in a Sept. 30 interview.

[See also: AHIMA CEO on ICD-10: 'We are ready'.]

Katherine Lusk, chief health information management and exchange officer of Children's Health System of Texas, and Neysa Noreen, data integrity and applications manager at the Children's Hospital & Clinics of Minnesota, say data exchange and interoperability require the matching or linking of an individual patient across multiple healthcare organizations.

Healthcare systems have managed this function internally with health information management professionals dedicated to manual cleanup, they add, but the costs are high.

Moreover, the information isn't always timely. Privacy also is a concern.

"A lack of a standardization of data can be at the root of inaccurate care with the potential harm for patients," said Lusk, in a news release.

[See also: AHIMA pushes for patient matching.]

About 1 percent of the U.S. population has the last name "Smith." If 1 percent of all the births are categorized simply as "Baby Boy" or "Baby Girl Smith", the potential for health data that is not properly linked to the correct patient is about 1 in 40,000.

"To provide the best quality of care, free of linking issues, a patient matching strategy must be put in place," Lusk said. "Nationally, we are struggling with using health information exchange technology tools due to inability to link patient records. The cost of healthcare cannot be managed if we are unable to communicate."