Why cloud-based EMPIs are a breakthrough for patient matching efforts

With advances in cloud computing, accurate patient identification doesn’t have to take a backseat to time and money

Several major healthcare associations including HIMSS, SHIEC and AHIMA are continuing to press Congress for more definite language and oversight in establishing national guidelines for patient matching—encouraging adoption of a more inclusive, countrywide system, where patients are properly identified and matched to their health profile throughout every step of the healthcare continuum. The same call to Congress continued last week with an article co-authored by several health IT leaders in the Journal of AHIMA, to bring industry alignment for a nationwide strategy for patient matching.

Difficulties surrounding patient matching are myriad and include proprietary systems that only work within a single vendor-based environment. The problem is exacerbated as more data is generated, leading to significant barriers in the exchange of health information and interoperability across disparate sources, vendors and sites of care. Meanwhile, patient data must be protected, timely, relevant, de-duplicated and, most importantly, represent the right individual. When sent downstream, poor patient matching and duplicate records trigger further harm, such as increased risk and cost from redundant medical testing, skewed analytics and reporting, denied claims, and billing inaccuracies.

Technology Built to Address the Problem
Adoption of a nationwide matching strategy has been part of policy discussions since Congress dismissed the concept of a national patient identifier system in 1998. While a coordinated approach to patient matching is needed, a universal identifier alone will never be enough to achieve complete integration of data across the continuum. Use of sophisticated patient matching algorithm technology found only in Enterprise Master Patient Index (EMPI) platforms will still be required to accurately match and compare records between clinical and financial data sources.

Fortunately, thanks to advances in cloud computing, EMPIs have gotten easier and more cost effective to implement and maintain. As more healthcare providers look for automated tools that advance their digital transformation journey and empower their high-volume, complex data with superior accuracy and immediate availability, SaaS-based EMPI models are entering the market at just the right time. A cloud EMPI offering eliminates the capital expense of a traditional on-premise platform and delivers a scalable and secure solution that simplifies EHR data throughout the entire care continuum.

As an automated and finely tuned environment for trusted patient information, an EMPI as a Service can seamlessly link and orchestrate data across systems, sources and locations without the worry of running out of storage or not having enough processing power. Additionally, with a managed service provider (MSP) at the helm, organizations don’t have to dedicate an army of IT employees to oversee their data security, monitoring, system optimization, or software upgrades.

Cloud Acceptance Drives Availability
There has been a huge shift in the past decade or so in how healthcare organizations view the cloud as a key enabler of their IT infrastructure. Today, the majority of providers are realizing the value add of cloud computing and are now moving to a cloud-based environment to reduce the total cost of ownership of their technology. In addition to reducing expenditures, organizations are also discovering that a fully-managed, SaaS-based EMPI allows them to easily gain insight into their patient data for population health and value-based care initiatives.

In an era of frequent, large-scale healthcare mergers and the transition away from fee-for-service, longitudinal medical records and robust interoperability will become competitive market advantages—and the need for patient matching EMPI technology will become progressively in-demand. While we continue to implore Congress to provide the industry with a distinct path forward toward a unified patient matching strategy, let’s not reinvent the wheel. We just need to align our spokes a bit and ensure that EMPIs are more broadly adopted and available.

Gevik Nalbandian is Vice President of Software Engineering at NextGate, a global leader in healthcare enterprise identification.

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