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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 6/4/20

June 4, 2020 Dr. Jayne 3 Comments

I attended the ONC working session on patient identification and matching on Monday. It was scheduled as a seven-hour Adobe Connect meeting, and for me, getting the most out of it in this format was challenging.

The only agenda available had been sent more than a week prior, along with my registration confirmation. It had two, three-hour blocks with the broad titles of “Challenges around Patient Identification and Matching – Boots on the Ground” and “Exploring Potential Solutions.” Under those blocks they had a list of individuals and their organizations, without a lot of detail around what they would be presenting.

According to the welcome, each presenter was supposed to have about eight minutes to speak. I tried to make my own time-boxed agenda, but it quickly was off by more than 10 minutes, so I gave up.

The first three sessions were largely review for anyone who has been dealing with this problem. Although the speakers were good, I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit a full day to gambling that I’d hear something I didn’t already know. It would have been good if the agenda included the theme of what each presenter was going to discuss so we could tune in and out in a way that made sense for us.

One of the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) parts of some of the presentations was the inclusion of examples of how things have gone wrong due to poor matching. It’s terrible from the patient perspective, but it is useful to provide concrete examples to try to engage stakeholders who may not think matching is a priority issue.

I continue to see organizations create their own matching nightmares by deliberately creating duplicate charts for patients depending on their payment status. I worked with one client who had separate charts when the payer was employee health versus when they were using insurance or cash pay. I understand their concern about having the employer have access to sensitive medical information, but if you have an employee health department that has to certify an employee’s readiness / safety for work, shouldn’t they have all the pieces of the puzzle? I worked with another practice that had separate charts for work comp versus insurance visits for a patient, simply because they didn’t understand how to use their practice management system to set up different payers on a patient and toggle from visit to visit.

Overall, the speakers did a great job of keeping within their time block, often running shorter than anticipated. Frank Opelka from the American College of Surgeons talked about silos in surgical care. The number of tax IDs that touch a patient during a major surgery could be more than 20. That’s pretty unbelievable,  but of course is believable in healthcare.

I really enjoyed hearing from Congressman Bill Foster of Illinois, who was a co-author of legislation last year that attempted to remove the ban on activities in support of a national patient identifier. I didn’t know much about him before today, but I was impressed by his background as a businessperson and also a scientist. He worked as a high-energy physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Lab and was part of the team that discovered the top quark. For science nerds, that’s pretty cool.

I also enjoyed Henry Wei’s explanation of “circles of trust” that evoked Robert DeNiro in “Meet the Parents.” Another great quote was David Speights from Appriss Health, who notes that regarding matching, “We’re trying to science the heck out of this.”

The bottom line for the day: Improved patient matching is a critical need, and a unique patient identifier would help and would  bring us into line with many other developed nations. A lot of smart people are working on this, but many barriers remain.


We are all knee-deep in COVID-19 projects, dealing with furloughs and working outside our usual norms. but CMS continues its churn with various rulemaking and other activities. On May 11 they issued the FY 2021 Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) for Acute Care Hospitals and Long-Term Care Hospital (LTCH) Prospective Payment System (PPS) Proposed Rule. That’s a lot of abbreviations right there within a single rule, but I guess calling it the IPPSAPCLCHPPSPR would be a bit much.

The proposed rule includes minimum 90-day reporting period in CY 2022; maintenance of the Electronic Prescribing Objective’s Query of Prescription Drug Monitoring Program measure as optional for five bonus points in CY 2021; renaming the Support Electronic Referral Loops by Receiving and Incorporating Health Information measure to the Support Electronic Referral Loops by Receiving and Reconciling Health Information measure; and increasing the number or quarters of electronic clinical quality measure data reporting. Comments can be submitted through 5 p.m. ET on July 10.

Speaking of COVID-19, Quest Diagnostics has received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) approval for its self-collected COVID-19 test last week. They hope to have half a million kits available by the end of this month. Other vendors already have similar tests available, but providers aren’t falling all over themselves ordering the tests for their patients. There are serious concerns about the self-swabbing ability of patients and with the ordering and management of the tests.

Go Mississippi: The Mississippi Hospital Association is launching a state-wide health information exchange in partnership with several regional hospitals and health systems. Initial capabilities will include admission and emergency department visit notifications, along with post-acute care transfer updates. Later phases will include clinical document exchange and referral management.


HIMSS is at it again, spending its efforts on frivolous activities such as “rebranding” rather than figuring out how to earn back trust among members and show attendees who are still smarting from financial losses. Last week they launched new branding for their regional chapters.

I really dislike it when organizations discuss their branding strategy. Branding, when done right, should be invisible to the consumer. I dislike it even more when the branding strategy is explained in buzzwords. “Our HIMSS brand architecture has been designed to do two things. First, to maximize clarity across our brand spectrum for both internal and external audiences. And second, to enable us to realize our full brand value, both now and in the future.”

I’m pretty sure most of us already recognize the HIMSS brand by its exorbitant fees and punitive housing and refund policies. Great job, marketing folks.


Happy 17th birthday to HIStalk this week. Being part of this industry has been a wild ride at times and I’m glad to have shared the journey with the HIStalk team and all our readers.

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Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Thanks again for a literate, thoughtful comment. One question: Did the ONC speakers estimate the number of patients killed or harmed from lack of a unique pt ID? (remembering it’s often two pts hurt with wrong pt errors).***
    Oh…. re: HIMSS rebranding is exactly as you say: It’s a trade sales group pretending to have intellectual and moral standing. Pathetic. The would sell e-snake oil if they could find suckers.

    *** Jason Adleman (at Columbia Presby) and I [plus several others] have written a few articles on wrong pt errors in relation to the number of EHR screens open at the same time. Results were very surprising.

    • Professor Koppel,

      Can you please provide a link @ reference to any of the articles you or Jason have written regarding wrong patient errors in relations to number of EHR screens open or other relevant research regarding patient (mis)identity.

      Thank you.

  2. Thank you for your recap of the ONC Patient Identity and Matching forum. I was one of the presenters and I think we may have heard different things about the usefulness of a national patient identifier. Your wrote “a unique patient identifier would help and would bring us into line with many other developed nations”. I think this is a notion that is still up for debate. In fact the first session of the day spoke to what an identifier “gets” you and its limitations.

    Yes, other nations have patient identifiers but these nations are also single-payer (national health systems). So it’s a bit apples and oranges.

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