Info Blocking

Why is a strong master patient index (MPI) essential for info blocking compliance?

By Meghan Franklin

As an increasing number of digital health applications enter the marketplace, when a patient requests data through an app of their choice, how will you match them to the patient in your system? How will you ensure that the data you send to that patient via an app gets to them securely? Debi Primeau, MA, RHIA, FAHIMA, weighs in on why strengthening patient identification and verification is key.

Info blocking compliance, will, in part, depend on one thing: Can your organization verify that the patient requesting information, or the entity requesting information on the patient’s behalf, is the same patient in your system? How can you verify, to the best of your ability, that you’re providing the right data to the right patient?

For further consideration: As an increasing number of health-related apps enter the marketplace, when a patient requests data through an app of their choice, how will you match them to the patient in your system? How will you ensure that the data you send to that patient via an app gets to them securely?

Debi Primeau, MA, RHIA, FAHIMA, Founder and President of health information consulting group Primeau Consulting Group, said a strong MPI paired with the American Health Information Management Association’s (AHIMA) new program, AHIMA dHealth™, can help organizations as they think about patient identification and verification regarding info blocking.

Why a strong MPI matters

While a 97 percent patient identification accuracy rate used to be viewed as sufficient in the past, Primeau said today, with interoperability continuously increasing, organizations should really be aiming to have an accuracy rate upwards of 99 percent. A strong MPI, she said, is key to getting to that point.

Without a nationwide enterprise MPI (EMPI) requiring the standardization of data fields, every organization plays an important role in helping to ensure patient data can be transmitted accurately and securely. If organization A only collects a patient’s name and date of birth, and organization B collects name, date of birth, social security number, address, Mother’s Maiden Name, etc., there is a greater chance that data sent from A to B or B to A won’t be the correct patient’s data. On the other hand, if both organizations have strong patient demographic collection policies and practices, sending “John Smith’s” records becomes safer and more secure.

With electronic health information being shared across providers as well as health information networks and exchanges, accurate patient identification has never been more important.

Ways to strengthen the MPI

As the industry prepares for info blocking compliance, Primeau suggests that organizations assess what patient demographic data they are collecting and how their data collection processes can be improved.

Are there more demographic data points that should be collected at patient registration? Primeau noted that many organizations are using patient photos as part of their patient identification process, which can be a great patient identification and verification tool. Primeau said she loves to see organizations going a step further and thinking about how biometrics, like fingerprints or face identification, could strengthen their patient identification process.

Primeau also suggests organizations assess where registration is happening.

“If possible, I always suggest centralizing the registration process, and providing excellent training to the registrars. They need to know why they’re being asked to collect the data they are,” Primeau said. Registrars need to understand that collecting patient demographic data isn’t just an administrative task, it’s critical to patient safety and privacy, she said.

Primeau said that with a decentralized registration process, organizations run the risk of having different patient demographic collection expectations and processes.

“The lab may have a different registration and demographic data collection process than the emergency department, for example,” Primeau said. “If registration is decentralized, it becomes even more important to have a strong organization-wide policy and procedure on patient demographic data collection.”

A tool to help discern the safety and security of health apps

In addition to strengthening their MPI and policies/procedures around patient demographic data collection, Primeau wants organizations to know about a new tool that can aid them in ensuring the right data gets to the right patient--AHIMA dHealth™.

AHIMA recently announced AHIMA dHealth™, and according to their press release, developers of digital health solutions can apply for their solution to become AHIMA dHealth™ Approved. Once a solution has been vetted by AHIMA-certified experts and proved to manage patient health data safely and securely, it will receive the AHIMA dHealth™ Approved designation. Importantly, Primeau said, one piece of the AHIMA dHealth™ vetting process is targeted at ensuring accurate patient identity.

AHIMA is collaborating on the program with health-tech company Moxe, whose technology platform will power the assessment and ensure all stakeholders have access to accurate information about digital health solutions.

Developers of digital health products can apply to have their solutions vetted here.

While healthcare organizations should decide how they will vet digital health offerings, Primeau said she hopes AHIMA dHealth™ will ease some of the burden of vetting solutions when there are so many in the marketplace.

The paradigm shift that info blocking presents

Like other healthcare industry veterans, Primeau sees the huge impact the info blocking rules will have on the industry.

“I see these rules as a wonderful opportunity. The spirit of the info blocking rules truly puts the patient at the center; it gives them access to their health information like never before,” Primeau said. “That’s a good thing, but I do worry about organizations’ overall preparedness to comply. It will definitely be a paradigm shift.”

About the expert: Debi Primeau has over 35 years of experience in the health information field and holds an RHIA and an MA in organizational management. Debi is passionate about supporting organizations in establishing creative, innovative solutions in all facets of health information to improve the quality of patient care while managing privacy and security, mitigating risk, and positively managing any impact to cost of patient care. She is Founder and President of Primeau Consulting Group.

About the writer: Meghan Franklin is a writer and strategic communicator with an M.A. in Rhetoric and a deep background in healthcare. As a former healthcare IT project manager and communications specialist at one of the nation’s leading children’s hospitals, she loves delving into healthcare topics. She values working with individuals and organizations on a mission to do something good.

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