By Robert Barker, Infoglide Senior VP & Chief Marketing Officer
The recently passed economic stimulus plan included $20 billion to encourage adoption of electronic health records by medical facilities across the U.S., spurring a huge amount of activity in the health care world. Implementing electronic medical records (EMR) is a very hot topic!
A key issue in EMR implementation is the integrity of the patient identification process used in creating an enterprise master patient index (EMPI). Avoiding medical errors means avoiding multiple types of errors that can crop up. Duplicates are a simple example, where the two records exist for the same person within a single facility. More complex types of errors can easily start to mount up, including overlaps where more than one record exists for one person within two facilities within a single organization, and overlays where information for two people are integrated under a single record.
False positives and false negatives during the identification process often cause these types of serious errors. Beth Just of Just Associates recently wrote an AHIMA Practice Brief entitled Managing the Integrity of Patient Identity in Health Information Exchange:
Common pitfalls include linking two closely related people with very similar names and dates of birth who live near each other (e.g., cousins who are named after the same individual who recently expired); two individuals living in a dense urban area with the same common name, date of birth, and address; or the example of twins having the same first name. Failure to catch such errors can result in overlaid medical records and subsequently negative health outcomes, serious privacy breaches, and legal ramifications.
Entity resolution technology capable of handling these problems has evolved in response to similar challenges that arose in other industries. Disparate applications, including airline passenger screening, lottery retailer fraud detection, organized retail crime fighting, and workers compensation fraud discovery, employ the same technology vital to successful EMR implementations.