It’s 2020: Why is patient matching still so hard?

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Anyone of a certain age will remember the early Internet’s utopian promises: democratic governments the norm; truth the global currency, shared data the most powerful medical instrument.

The first two look naïve today, but hope is still held for the third, if only because people’s well-being and lives are on the line.

A new report, The State of Patient Matching in America, surveyed healthcare executives and found a stubborn lack of large-scale healthcare data sharing, and it proposes steps to move things along. Most of the suggestions are as familiar as the missed opportunities.

“Correctly and consistently linking patient data across the care continuum remains a significant challenge for U.S. hospitals and health-information exchanges,” according to the report. The non-profit consulting firm eHealth Initiative Foundation and NextGate, maker of cloud-based identity management software, published the information.

The domestic healthcare scene is nothing if not dynamic right now, say the authors, as it transitions to a value-based model, undergoes mergers and welcomes startups. Yet none this is yielding the kind of irresistible momentum toward reliable, across-the-industry patient matching.

“Incomplete or inaccurate data in one’s health record can be detrimental to patient safety and a significant barrier to delivering coordinated, patient-centric care,” writes Andy Aroditis, chief executive of NextGate in the document.

Indeed, nearly 38 percent of healthcare providers reported having suffered an “adverse event” in the last two years because of a patient-matching problem.

The reasons are simple.

Mere data-entry errors cause more duplicate medical records than any other factor, according to the survey.

Survey respondents with care providers said prioritization and technology are lacking. Those with health-information exchanges said budgets and staff are the biggest reason they cannot make this essential transformation happen.

The proposed solutions are less surprising.

About 70 percent of exchange executives responding to the survey said they completely or somewhat agree that federal dollars should pay for a national patient identifier.

And both provider and exchange executives said data standardization and biometrics are “the most promising innovations” that affect patient matching nationally. They just need more of a push.

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