Standards needed for biometrics and other data to tap potential of electronic health records

Patient matching needs to be significantly improved with a national strategy and standards agreed to by health organizations and technology providers, including biometrics companies, in order to properly leverage electronic health records (EHRs), according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.

A new report from Pew titled “Enhanced Patient Matching is Critical to Achieving Full Promise of Digital Health Records” (PDF) and a panel of health IT experts, researchers, and executives meeting at an event to explore the issue both conclude that no current technology can deliver satisfactory match rates, but with standardization and industry coordination, new approaches and technologies can be developed to unlock the potential of EHRs.

Research from the Regenstrief Institute presented at the Pew event shows that standardizing addresses and last names in four Indiana databases had the largest benefit to match rates, FierceHealthcare reports, supporting the claim that data standardization is the key challenge.

Among the report’s findings are some good news for biometrics providers. Patients agree that unique identifiers are necessary, and prefer using biometrics to other unique identifiers, like smart cards and usernames. It examines several different models of biometric matching service delivery, and also recommends the use of smartphones as a possible means of empowering patients.

“Biometrics are becoming increasingly common for various consumer purposes and even used by many consumers daily with their smartphones; biometrics and smartphone-based approaches could be similarly leveraged in health care,” the report authors write. “However, using biometrics for matching across organizations requires identifying and adopting standards and a nationwide agreed-upon infrastructure on how to leverage different modalities.”

The report ultimately recommends a series of assessments and clarifications in the near term, and determining the infrastructure and standards necessary to use biometrics and other technologies for secure matching that preserves privacy, and creation of a single organization to oversee patient-matching strategy in the long term. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is identified as one possible standardization body, with the ONC planning to appoint a Recognized Coordinating Entity for the implementation of the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA).

Grand View Research recently predicted that the global healthcare biometrics market will reach $11.7 billion by 2024.

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