In a letter to CMS, Pew says patient matching unlocks critical information, but identification is often elusive and better standards are needed.

Patient matching will lead to interoperability, Pew says

By Bernie Monegain
10:30 AM
Patient matching will lead to interoperability says Pew Research

The Pew Charitable Trusts is urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to tackle interoperability, patient identification and limited use of standards to describe clinical information.

In a June 25 letter, Pew asserted the proposed changes to Medicare payment programs that promote interoperability would make it possible for patients and clinicians to access critical health data when and where they need it to inform care decisions.

Pew is commenting on the 2019 Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System, or HIPPS, a proposed rule that replaces the Meaningful Use Program with a new set of interoperability-focused measures, including several provisions designed to advance data exchange. 

[Also: Senators ask GAO for recommendations on unique patient identifiers]

Ben Moscovitch, Pew’s manager of health information technology, said he believes

improvements to patient matching is a key building block for interoperability.

Also, Pew notes that the proposed changes to Medicare payment programs that promote interoperability make it easier for patients and clinicians to access critical health data when and where they need it.

But it’s not always easy.

HIMSS, CHIME, AHIMA and ONC have tackled the slippery interoperability conundrum, and some advances have been made over the years.

CMS’ efforts to promote interoperability through hospital payment programs face three key barriers, according to Pew.

It’s often difficult to match health records to the patient. Moreover, it’s not easy to extract useful data from health records. Also, the standard way to describe clinical information is often imperfect.

[Also: Next-gen interoperability: AI, blockchain, FHIR and open source analytics]

As Pew sees it, improvements to patient matching is a critical building block for interoperability. 

Yet, researchers have found match rates as low as 50 percent to link records held in different healthcare facilities. So, healthcare providers lose the ability to access critical data to inform care decisions.

It’s tricky. Researchers point to match rates as low as 50 percent when they tried to link records from different healthcare facilities. As a result, this challenge in correctly linking an individual with his or her records impedes patients’ and healthcare providers’ ability to access critical data to inform care decisions.

CMS continues to emphasize the utility of health insurance claims for research, the agency should support efforts to ensure the data include critical information – namely the brand and model of implanted medical devices. 

Pew is juggling several initiatives focused on improving the quality and safety of patient care, facilitating the development of new medical products and reducing costs.

In addition to championing better patient matching, Pew proposes the use of simple and transparent APIs. It also calls for standardized clinical terminologies.

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com