News
August 6, 2020

Study aims to make patient electronic health record matching more accurate

Research will examine collection and formatting of patient demographic data

Regenstrief Institute is working with the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Center for Health Information Partnerships at Northwestern University to shed light on the collection and formatting of demographic data used to link patient records with the goal of making the process easier and more accurate.

This study aims to understand which demographic data healthcare organizations most frequently use to match patient records and how this information is entered in electronic health record (EHR) systems. Using the same data points and formatting them in the same way can allow different systems to better match records among shared patients. Regenstrief Vice President for Data and Analytics and Indiana University School of Medicine Professor Shaun Grannis, M.D., M.S., is the leading the institute’s team on this project.

Patient record matching plays an important role in patient safety. Clinicians need to have access to all the available data to make the best care decisions. However, entries are often missing from a patient’s record because variations in record keeping practices between healthcare facilities can make matching difficult.

Although nearly all hospitals and most office-based practices use EHRs to house patients’ health information, one estimate found that attempts to link patients’ records held in different systems may fail up to half the time.

In the first part of the study, facilities will complete a questionnaire about the demographic data elements they collect, as well as how those elements are documented and formatted. The researchers will subsequently run an analysis on a subset of organizations’ databases to assess how often these facilities collect this data in practice.

The study will also examine how atypical identity information is documented, including biometrics such as fingerprints or photos. In the longer term, these emerging technologies could also help improve matching, but more research is needed on how to collect and share biometric data in a manner that makes data exchange easy but also protects privacy.

Information from this research will inform policymakers as they work to improve the accuracy of patient matching. Researchers aim to provide clarity on the current landscape and guidance on how to make the process easier and more accurate.

Dr. Grannis and his team also worked with Pew on a study that showed standardizing last names and addresses can greatly improve patient matching rates.

About Regenstrief Institute

Founded in 1969 in Indianapolis, the Regenstrief Institute is a local, national and global leader dedicated to a world where better information empowers people to end disease and realize true health. A key research partner to Indiana University, Regenstrief and its research scientists are responsible for a growing number of major healthcare innovations and studies. Examples range from the development of global health information technology standards that enable the use and interoperability of electronic health records to improving patient-physician communications, to creating models of care that inform practice and improve the lives of patients around the globe.

Regenstrief Institute is celebrating 50 years of healthcare innovation. Sam Regenstrief, a successful entrepreneur from Connersville, Indiana, founded the institute with the goal of making healthcare more efficient and accessible for everyone. His vision continues to guide the institute’s research mission.

About Pew Charitable Trusts

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. It is an independent nonprofit organization – the sole beneficiary of seven individual trusts established between 1948 and 1979 by two sons and two daughters of Sun Oil Company founder Joseph N. Pew and his wife, Mary Anderson Pew. Today, Pew is a global research and public policy organization, still operated as a non-partisan, non-governmental organization dedicated to serving the public.

About the Center for Health Information Partnerships at Northwestern University

The Center for Health Information Partnerships (CHIP) serves a mission to bring people, communities, and data together to drive measurable and sustained improvement in health. Since 2010, it has worked with partners to strengthen the use of health information technology and improve access to health data. CHIP is part of the Institute for Public Health and Medicine based at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

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