Use patient acuity tools to face patient matching challenges

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT launched a patient matching initiative in September in an effort to encourage hospitals to better monitor patient data and follow best practices. According to iHealthBeat, the ONC announced findings from its initiative during a Dec. 16 webinar that uncovered how well the healthcare industry pairs patients with their own health information. With patient engagement being a key focus of Stage 2 meaningful use, having high accessibility and accuracy of patient health records is crucial for hospitals. While many obstacles to patient matching were cited, patient acuity and classification tools can help CNOs improve patient information precision by matching patients with the right nurse.

Having the best caregivers with patients can not only decrease their readmission risks but help ensure the proper information is being recorded in electronic health records. Nurses who don’t have experience with patients who have specific care requirements may not realize what information needs to be documented, or may misinterpret data, leading to patient outcome obstacles. According to FierceHealthcare, EHRs don’t capture all of the needed information, making nurse documentation crucial to patient outcomes and classification.

Tackling the patient matching challenge
FierceHealthcare reported the ONC’s announcement indicated patient engagement has yet to reach its full potential due to smaller hospitals and medical centers being unable to correct ongoing patient documentation issues. Issues include making mistakes while entering information and incorrectly formatting data in EHRs. Due to these challenges, the ONC suggested hospitals create a standardized patient identifier during data transactions to ensure the right patient is matched with the correct information. According to iHealthBeat, the indicator may contain personal information, such as current and previous addresses as well as date of birth. While the majority of EHRs include space for this information, ensuring all of the data remains standardized is important for patient matching. Duplicate records continue to be an issue within the medical community, and hospitals should train staff to recognize and address numerous patient profiles within their EHR system.

The ONC announced it will provide additional best practices about data governance and patient matching to help hospitals achieve Stage 2 meaningful use. However, health systems should utilize the resources they already have, such as patient acuity and classification tools, to maintain accurate patient health records.

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