CHIME Launches $1 Million Competition to Solve the National Patient Identifier Problem

Matching patient records to the correct patient is a complicated business. In theory at least, with patient information recorded digitally, it should be possible to match records with the correct patient no matter where the patient information is accessed or where the data is located. In an ideal world this would happen 100% of the time. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world and patients and records are frequently mismatched. This can naturally have serious consequences for patients.

Records and Patients only Correctly Matched 90% of the Time

Studies suggest that the probability of records and patients being paired correctly is around 90% on average. Provided of course, that the records are located within a single health system. Should some records be located in a different health system, the chance of those records being correctly matched is much lower. In fact, when records are shared across different health systems the figure falls to around 80%. If a patient is to receive the best possible level of care, this is a problem that must be resolved.

Solving the Problem of Corrrect Patient Identification

Introducing a universal national patient identifier is the obviously solution. Unfortunately, while HIPAA did call for the introduction of a national patient identifier back in 1996 when the legislation was introduced, just three years later the decision was taken to block this. In 1999 congress passed a law banning the Department of Health and Human Services from spending any of its budget on a national ID to solve the problem of patient identification. One of the main reasons behind the ban was concern about privacy.

With the ban on HHS funding still in place, it is up to the private sector to come up with a solution. Now, 17 years after that ban was introduced some progress is finally being made.

CHIME Launches $1 Million Competition for National Patient Identifier Solution

One of the problems with patient identification (and there are many) is the lack of a common standard for storing patient data. This throws up all manner of problems when attempting to electronically match patients with their data. There are also issues with the quality of data entered by different healthcare systems, according to the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).

As Intermountain Health CIO Marc Probst points out, a great deal of money is currently being wasted trying to match up patients with medical records. The costs to his health system alone is between $4 and $5 million each year, such are the administrative and technological problems involved.

There is a clear need for a solution, but currently no solution exists that can promise to correctly match records with patients 100% of the time. According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, “no single solution can accomplish this feat given the underlying contributors to the challenge of accurate record linking.”

CHIME has now stepped up to the plate and is now taking action. The organization has launched a $1 million competition to try to find a practical and secure solution to the national patient identifier problem.

On January 19, CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell announced the launch of the competition which is being run with the crowdsourcing platform HeroX. The competition will run for a year and will be open to all. The aim is to find a solution that will solve the problem once and for all. The solution will need to be practical, accurate, private, and totally secure.

Innovators from all over the world can take part, and can obtain information from the National Patient ID Challenge website. The winner of the competition will be announced in February next year.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.