CHIME, HeroX launch $1 million patient identifier challenge, turn to private sector

Federal agencies are banned by Congress from doing any work related to finding a national patient identifier.
By Mike Miliard
11:43 AM

CHIME on Tuesday, through a partnership with SpaceX-affiliated crowdfunding site HeroX, launched a $1 million patient identification contest in the hope that private industry can fix the safety risks posed by patient matching.

"Now is the time for a national patient ID," said Intermountain Healthcare Chief Information Officer Marc Probst at a Tuesday afternoon press conference launching the yearlong, crowdsourced National Patient ID Challenge.

The contest calls on innovators worldwide to submit ideas.

[Also: CHIME presses Congress for patient ID]

In the spring, CHIME and HeroX will announce participants moving on to the Concept Blitz Round. Innovators will then further develop and refine their ideas as they prepare for judging and the Final Innovation Round.

They will need to produce working prototypes of their designs. CHIME intends to announce the $1 million winner in February 2017 at the CHIME-HIMSS CIO Forum at HIMSS17.

Probst said he recognizes that there is politics surrounding the issue. Federal agencies are banned by Congress from doing any work related to finding a national patient identifier.

So the CHIME contest hopes to succeed as a non-governmental approach to solving a longstanding problem that holds the potential for serious dangers to patient safety.

[Also: AHIMA takes on patient identifier]

The fast-paced adoption of electronic health records over the past decade or so has been unprecedented, said Probst. "We have way more digitized data than ever before, and this opens up a host of opportunities."

But it also introduces new areas of risk, said Tejal K. Gandhi, MD, president and CEO of the National Patient Safety Foundation, at the event.

The push away from paper is laudable, but without a reliable way to differentiate one digital John Smith from another, "we've created new ways to fail," she said. "Duplicate or incomplete records pose numerous safety concerns."

The good news is patient misidentification is preventable, said Gandhi. "It's a complicated safety issue in healthcare, but one we must begin to seriously address."

“Encouraging innovators from around the world to develop a solution that is private, accurate and safe," Probst said, is a big step forward, not just for safety but also for cost efficiencies.

Intermountain spends between $4 million and $5 million annually on technologies and processes to try to ensure proper patient identification, Probst said.

At the Mayo Clinic, meanwhile, each case of misidentification costs at least $1,200, according to a 2014 Office of the National Coordinator report on patient matching.

ONC data shows that healthcare organizations have gotten better at patient identification, but those solutions have not been universally-adopted. For instance, providers vary greatly in how they format names and addresses. Also, the quality of the data entered into systems can be mixed.

CHIME data, meanwhile, indicates wide variation in how hospitals identify their patients. More than 60 percent of CHIME members use some form of a unique patient identifier to match patient data within their organizations; others rely on complicated algorithms.

Nearly 20 percent of CHIME members surveyed in 2012 could attribute at least one adverse medical event to incorrect patient matching.

At the press conference, National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo said the government is doing its part to set standards for interoperability and secure, accurate data exchange, but can only do so much. She called on the private sector "to make a commitment to this new future" and put both security and patient safety at the forefront.

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"We will do our part," said DeSalvo of ONC's work. "But we cannot, should not and will not do it alone. We need to the private sector to work with us."

"HeroX is proud to be partnering with CHIME to drive the next big breakthrough in national patient identification so that we can live safer, healthier lives,” said HeroX Co-founder and CEO Christian Cotichini, in a statement.

“Patient mismatching and our inability to accurately identify patients across the continuum of care has been an ongoing problem for the industry,” added CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell. “We deserve better. Our patients deserve better. We hope that this competition will bring forth a solution that ensures that we can identify patients the right way every single time."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN