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Issues with patient matching

Mandar Thosar Sep 20, 2016

Healthcare HIPPA

Ask a practitioner the importance of medical history of a patient. And a seasoned practitioner will tell you If as a practitioner you have access to complete history of patient record then your chances of better treatment goes high. But here's a problem. Though HIPAA has guidelines for sharing information among players in healthcare system, federal appropriations legislation of 1999 holds these players from matching patient specific information since patient unique identification information can't be used.

Records within hospitals can be matched easily since these hospitals have their own identification information for patients but when information about the patient comes from various hospitals, it doesn't have any identification system with which patient records can be matched. Hence, even though such patient matching is very much critical for effective health information exchange (HIE) implementation, it is difficult to achieve in reality. We can hope that some change will come up in near future that will address this issue but for now there are only deterministic and probabilistic ways for matching patient information.

It may then appear that the data within a hospital is easy to match since most of the hospitals have their own way of storing patient information. However, intra-hospital record management has its own challenges. The inconsistencies of patient data with hospitals are caused by:

  1. Non-uniform patient data management strategy
  2. Different formats for patient data storage used in different departments within a   hospital
  3. Adoption of IT within different departments at different time period
  4. Choosing department specific software over healthcare ERP as quick fix solution for  departmental IT implementation
  5. Data inconsistency issues raised due to mergers and acquisitions of the hospitals or hospital chains
  6. Lack of universal patient data storage standard since start within the hospital

In summary, there are issues pertaining to patient health record matching at two levels- intra and inter hospitals. We will talk about better IT implementation strategy to address these issues in the following blog.

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