Health IT

Solve patient records matching problem, win $1 million

CHIME and the National Patient Safety Foundation want to hear private-sector ideas for 100 percent accurate, secure patient matching that can reduce medical errors caused by duplicate or incomplete records while also safeguarding patient privacy.

Dr. Tejal K. Gandhi, CRO of the National Patient Safety Foundation, speaks during the webcast kicking off the CHIME National Patient ID Challenge.

Dr. Tejal K. Gandhi, CRO of the National Patient Safety Foundation, speaks during the webcast kicking off the CHIME National Patient ID Challenge.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives has kicked off a previously announced $1 million challenge to create a national patient identifier. The organization, mostly representing hospital CIOs, is ready to hear private-sector ideas for 100 percent accurate, secure patient records matching that can reduce medical errors caused by duplicate or incomplete records while also safeguarding patient privacy.

The $1 million CHIME National Patient ID Challenge launched Tuesday on HeroX, a challenge platform co-founded by XPrize CEO Peter Diamandis. CHIME has been working on the concept for two years and first publicly floated the idea nearly a year ago.

“We’re doing it this way because we don’t think we have the time anymore” to live without patient matching, CHIME CEO Russell Branzell said during a webcast press conference Tuesday. “We don’t believe this will fix all our woes … but we do think this is a cornerstone issue,” Branzell added.

“Now is the time for a national patient ID,” said CHIME board chair Marc Probst, vice president and CIO of Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, and CHIME board chair. Since the government won’t create one, the private sector needs to step up, Probst and other speakers said.

The original 1996 HIPAA legislation called for the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a national patient identifier. But two years later, as critics raised concerns about identity theft and a Big Brother-like, government-controlled database, Congress voted to deny HHS funding to implement the system. The ban has remained in place for 18 years.

Branzell said the prohibition “made sense” back in 1998. “We’re in a different place now,” he said, noting that electronic health records are widespread. Branzell said that healthcare providers and the health IT industry have an “ethical responsibility to fix the problem” today.

The federal government doesn’t expect to get funding anytime soon, so national health IT coordinator Dr. Karen DeSalvo endorsed this strategy.

“This patient identification challenge is a perfect example” of the private sector stepping up and leading, DeSalvo said during the press conference. “We cannot, we should not and we will not do that alone.”

Dr. Tejal Gandhi, CEO of the National Patient Safety Foundation, a challenge partner, said that medication errors continue to be the most common type of error she sees. “Patient misidentification is a preventable event,” Gandhi said.

Inaccurate patient identification, caused in part by the fragmented electronic data, has exacerbated the problem, according to Gandhi. “We actually have created new ways to fail,” she said.

“Clearly, we have a significant public health issue.”

The contest will run for a year, though the initial, “public blitz round” ends in May, according to CHIME. The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based organization is looking for sponsors for the $1 million prize, though a spokesman said that the CHIME board “is committed to this challenge, should it come to that.”

Branzell discusses the problem and the challenge in this video:

Photo: Screen grab from CHIME webcast.