January 15, 2019

New GAO Report Reveals Key Areas for Improving Critical Patient Record Matching Across Health Providers

Report confirms importance of accurate patient record matching for patients' health, safety, and privacy and recognizes the need for additional research to improve health care quality and use of resources

Text of the Report (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced the release of a new report today from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealing a number of key areas for improving patient record matching across U.S. health care providers. Titled "Approaches and Challenges to Electronically Matching Patients' Records across Providers," the study is the result of a provision coauthored in 2016 by Senator Warren, along with Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), in the 21st Century Cures Act (Section. 4007).

Additionally, in October 2017, the Senators sent a letter asking that GAO consider a number of specific issues impacting patient record matching as the GAO began this study. Patient record matching allows health care professionals to match patients to their medical records between health systems or within the same system. However, patient misidentification can lead to inadequate, inappropriate, and costly care and even contribute to patient harm or death.

The report confirmed that accurate patient record matching is critical to patients' health, safety, and privacy and identified key recommendations for improved matching to be taken by the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and other stakeholders. These include implementation of common data standards, sharing of best practices, a national unique patient identifier, and public-private collaboration.

"GAO's report shows that better patient record matching across providers will improve patient care and help bring down health care costs." Senator Warren said. "ONC and stakeholders should take steps identified in the report to improve the quality of patient health data."

In health care settings, correct patient record matching allows providers to share patient information when appropriate, and can improve the quality of health care and more efficient use of resources. The American Hospital Association found that 45 percent of large hospitals had difficulties with patient record matching.