August 14, 2015 | | Sara Heath, EHR Intelligence

As the healthcare industry grows increasingly complex, so does the process of linking patient data across various healthcare providers. Known as patient matching, this process has made health information exchange (HIE) very cumbersome and prompted initiatives to come up with better solutions.

As a part of those initiatives, the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) will be holding the HIMSS Patient Matching Testing Event, according to a recent press release. The event will be held on August 14 at the HIMSS Innovation Center in Cleveland.

This first-of-its-kind event utilizes the partnership between HIMSS, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) through their two-year Innovator-in-Resident Fellowship. Led by the Innovator-in-Resident Adam Culbertson and HHS Entrepreneurs-in-Residence Paula Braun and David Portnoy, this event will bring together innovators from the HHS and the rest of the industry in a lab environment.

The event will feature two guest speakers, Grahame Grieve, Project Lead for HL7 FHIR, and Jeff Eastman, an architect at Michigan Health Information Network (MiHIN). Grieve will explain the benefits of improving patient matching systems and the way in which the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources draft standard can help enhance that process. Eastman will discuss the data sets that will be used for the event for the purposes of innovating new patient matching systems.

The HIMSS Patient Matching Testing Event will utilize various activities and experiments intended to prompt ideas about how to improve patient matching systems.

“The hope is that the testing event will serve as a kick-off to broad industry collaboration to solve this complex problem,” said Adam Culbertson, HIMSS Innovator-in-Residence and event leader. “We appreciate the support of HHS IDEA Lab and ONC in this endeavor and welcome industry colleagues to the project.”

This event is an important step in the right direction for HIE. Improving patient matching systems will allow physicians easier access to patient files, enabling them to provide higher quality and more efficient care.

Other organizations, such as the College of Health Information Management Executives (CHIME), are putting forth efforts to find a solution to the patient matching systems problem. In March, the organization announced a $1 million prize for an effective tool for better HIE and patient data sharing. This initiative encouraged individuals to develop a national patient identifier (NPI) system that could take the place of patient matching systems.

“There is a growing consensus among payers and providers that a unique patient ID would radically reduce medical errors and save lives,” said CHIME CEO and President Russell P. Branzell, FCHIME, CHCIO. “Incomplete or duplicate health records present significant issues in terms of patient safety, and there is a pressing need for preventing, detecting and removing inaccurate records so hospitals can positively match the right data with the right patient in order to provide the best possible care.”

Despite the differences in approaches, both HIMSS and CHIME are making positive and necessary steps toward improving HIE.