Data standardization can improve EHR matching, study finds

Standardizing patients' last names and address information in EHRs can lead to more effective matching of an individual's health records, according to a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

A team of researchers from Indianapolis-based Regenstrief Institute, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis and The Pew Charitable Trusts analyzed four health datasets to identify a baseline matching accuracy: health information exchange records, public health registry records, Social Security death master file records and newborn screening records. Researchers then tested standardized addresses, last names, Social Security numbers, telephone numbers and full birthdates.

To evaluate match performance, the research team used four metrics: sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value and accuracy. Results of the study showed standardizing last names and address information combined improved the matching of patient EHRs by 8 percent.

"Address is a field rife for variation, so this is a great opportunity for standardization," Shaun Grannis, MD, lead study author and director of the Regenstrief Center for Biomedical Informatics, said in a news release. "Standardizing data on a broader scale would ensure that patients and clinicians have better data on which to make decisions, which would enhance both the quality of care and patient safety."

Study authors concluded that address standardization can improve EHR patient matching and suggested health IT policy makers develop measures to support the method and provide more evidence of its value toward data consistency.

To access the full report, click here.

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