The fact of today's world is that patient's medical records do not reside in one system. I don't know anyone today that has only ever been to one doctor, it just doesn't happen. So, it's no wonder that we have trouble accessing a patient's full medical record, and verifying their identity across or even within systems.
For many, many years, congress has not approved funding to address this growing problem. They stayed away from issuing any mandates, or passing any legislation for the development of a national patient identifier. You will find many opinions about the benefits or problems associated with going to a national identifier, most of them valid (on both sides).
According to a recent article by HealthInforSecurity.com; "In a provision of the proposed fiscal 2018 appropriations budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, the House appropriations committee requests a report on "the impact on care improvement, reduction in costs, estimated saved lives or reduction in errors, and improvements in patient safety if hospitals were required to use a patient matching system as a requirement for participation in the Medicare program."
This report will be very interesting, and my guess is that it will show that if hospitals had a patient matching system, they would see a decrease in costs and improvement in patient care.
In the meantime though, what can hospitals do to start improving their own processes?
Because patient data no longer stays silo'd in one organization, the best thing a hospital can do is to know their own data before they send it elsewhere. I.e. Make sure their data is "clean" before sending it to other systems or HIEs.
Here are a few things to consider before moving data:
1. Know your duplicate rate: According to a 2016 Study by AHIMA, 45% of hospitals surveyed didn't even know their duplicate rate. You need to know what's broken before you can fix it.
2. Are you migrating to a new system? — define a process to clean up your data before it is moved, so you aren't moving bad data
3. Is your EMPI working for you, or do you need to retune your algorithms?
4. Sending data to your HIE — what formats are required and how will you be receiving data back?
These are some high level areas to start understanding where you have problems. There is a lot more information to share for each of these categories.
I covered this topic in more detail during a recent webinar, "Know Your Patient Data Before You Send it Elsewhere." Click here to request the on-demand webinar.