Inaccurate Information, Inconsistent Formatting Make It Hard to Match Patients in EHR Systems, GAO Says

January 30, 2019 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​Inaccurate or incomplete patient demographic information and inconsistent formatting of such information are key challenges to matching patients in electronic health record (EHR) systems, according to Health Information Technology: Approaches and Challenges to Electronically Matching Patients' Records across Providers, a January 15, 2019, report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). For example, health information technology (IT) systems and providers use different formats for certain information (e.g., names that contain hyphens), and records may contain inaccurate or conflicting information (e.g., patients may give their nicknames). GAO read reports about patient matching from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and others, including the ECRI Institute PSO Deep Dive: Patient Identification. GAO also interviewed 37 stakeholders, including representatives from physician practices, hospitals, health systems, health information exchange organizations, health IT vendors, ONC officials, provider and industry associations, and researchers. According to the stakeholders, providers match patient records using patient demographic information, employing a manual or automatic process or a combination. For example, some use software that can identify potential matches, which staff then manually review.

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