CHIME Issues National Patient ID Challenge

Russell P. Branzell
Russell P. Branzell

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), the professional organization for chief information officers and senior IT executives, is calling on innovators throughout the U.S. to participate in the CHIME National Patient ID Challenge.

In an effort to find a universal solution for accurately matching patients with their healthcare information, CHIME will launch a $1 million challenge early this summer on the HeroX platform, co-founded by XPRIZE CEO Dr. Peter Diamandis.

The digitization of the U.S. healthcare system maintains that electronic health records must be able to seamlessly share and exchange information. According to CHIME, interoperability is not enough — to realize their full potential, patient data contained in the EHR must be accurate to support the requirements of coordinated, accountable, patient-centered care, the organization says.

“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.”

Duplicate or inaccurate patient records can occur from manual data entry errors, or when two or more individuals share the same name. This presents considerable concern for different individuals being identified as the same patient, potentially resulting in inadequate treatment or unintended injury.

Consider data collected by the Harris County Hospital District in Houston where there are 2,488 actual patients named Maria Garcia – in which 231 of those share the same birth date. Further, a patient’s name may evolve throughout a lifetime, resulting in multiple records for the same individual (i.e. Jonathan L. Smith, Jr.). Additionally, one incorrectly typed key in a middle name, address or Social Security number can lead to a duplicate medical record.

According to a 2012 CHIME survey of healthcare CIOs, error rates because of patient mismatching averaged eight percent and ranged up to 20 percent. Moreover, 19 percent of the 128 respondents indicated that their hospital had experienced an adverse event during the course of the year due to a patient information mismatch.

“This needs to be the year of positive patient identification,” said CHIME board chair Charles E. Christian, FCHIME, LCHIME, CHCIO, vice president and CIO of St. Francis Hospital in Georgia. “Healthcare CIOs have long struggled with a lack of national standards for eradicating the burdens of matching patient data when engaging in health information exchange. As those charged with leading health information technology, we have a responsibility to ensuring the technology we’re implementing leads to better, safer, more efficient patient care.”

Costly patient matching inaccuracies are far-reaching; impacting clinical, financial and operational hospital performance. According to the 2012 CHIME survey, more than three full-time employees are needed to reconcile disparate or duplicate information from patient health records.

A coalition of industry partners from the vendor and association communities lent their support for CHIME’s National Patient ID Challenge.

“Accurately matching patients with their health records, no matter where they have been collected or stored, remains a pressing challenge for our entire industry,” said Howard Messing, president and CEO of MEDITECH. “We look forward to learning about any ideas that can meet this need, while still maintaining the highest levels of security and confidentiality possible.”

Lynne Thomas Gordon
Lynne Thomas Gordon

“As health information exchange becomes more prevalent, patient matching is a perennial issue,” said Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA, CEO of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). “A solution would be a significant step toward ensuring the integrity of health information and, as a result, better patient care. AHIMA is proud to support this challenge.”

“Accurate patient identification is essential to true interoperability, and maximizes the ability for health IT to ensure the best possible outcome for the patient. We are excited to see CHIME joining existing efforts such as the CommonWell Health Alliance in leveraging private market resources to remove this unnecessary barrier,” said Zane Burke, President of Cerner Corporation.

“This announcement by CHIME is so exciting because the need is so great and we know the ideas and solutions are out there,” said Joel White, executive director of the Health IT Now (HITN) Coalition. “As technology and data play ever greater roles in improving health and safety and lowering health costs, patient identification in care delivery is increasingly complex, but increasingly necessary. HITN is confident the creative and capable souls will step up and solve the problem.”

“Accurate identification of each and every patient is a fundamental precept to patient safety,” said Tejal Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, President and CEO of the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF). “NPSF applauds the work that CHIME is doing to bring the intricacies of this issue to the attention of the public and policy makers, and we support the efforts of innovators seeking workable solutions.”

As CHIME works to raise the $1 million prize money, it has put a task force of healthcare IT leaders in place charged with assigning challenge guidelines and winning criteria.

“Unintended injury attributable to patient data-matching error is a considerable, and growing problem in this era of health information exchange,” said Branzell. “Despite years of development, no clear strategy on patient matching has emerged. Our hope is that this challenge will reach a diverse audience and inspire the kinds of ideas needed to implement change and improve patient outcomes.”

For more details on CHIME’s National Patient ID Challenge, visit

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