Pew to ONC chief Rucker: Patient matching and data standardization can fix interoperability

ONC must foster more accurate and effective health information exchange by focusing on those key areas, group says.
By Tom Sullivan
01:45 PM
Donald Rucker national coordinator ONC

The Pew Charitable Trusts has called on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to advance interoperability by focusing on patient matching and standards for clinical data elements.

Citing provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act that mandate ONC establish a framework for exchanging data between health information networks, Ben Moscovitch,
 manager of health information technology at Pew, wrote in a letter to national coordinator Donald Rucker that “effective exchange of information across networks, as envisioned in Cures, could benefit from advances in both patient matching and data standards.”

Patient matching

Moscovitch pointed to ONC data demonstrating that today’s match rates are as low as 50 percent when clinicians are seeking patient data across healthcare facilities. That reality, of course, can inhibit doctors from accessing information that is critical to care decisions.

“Facilities treating the same patient may not all belong to the same data exchange network. When this occurs, facilities must be able to identify and locate their patients’ records even when those records are held by other organizations and in another network,” Moscovitch 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.” 


While there are many varying standards associated with interoperability, Moscovitch called for those applicable to clinical data elements, notably vital signs, medications and lab results because organizations tend to document and share such data in different ways such that it is difficult to either code or process that information when accessing it from another hospital. Without a foundation of standards, ONC’s vision of nationwide interoperability cannot be achieved and, it follows, that ironing out clinical data element standards can enable more effective data exchange.

“By prioritizing advances in these areas,” Moscovitch noted, “ONC can help foster more accurate and robust data exchange to drive interoperability so that patients, their caregivers, and healthcare providers have the information they need to coordinate care and make informed decisions.” 

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