There's a big problem with duplicate patient records across the U.S., according to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). The organization says the majority of health information management professionals routinely work to mitigate duplicate patient records with the patients they encounter.

According to a survey conducted last summer, 72 percent face these troubles each week, while less than half (47 percent) of the 815 respondents said they have a quality assurance step in their registration or post-registration process. They also face a lack of resources to adequately correct duplicates.

The AHIMA membership survey included feedback from participants using 12 different EHR systems. According to the results, 43 percent of respondents are measuring data quality as it relates to patient matching. AHIMA reports that routine quality-check exercises are an important component of data quality for patient matching.

"These routine quality checks include examples, such as daily, weekly and monthly reporting on demographic changes made to patients, duplicates created and feedback mechanisms," the authors of the study wrote. "The process may also include a reconciliation process for temporary values as indicated with trauma, unknown and newborn patients."

Additionally, 47 percent of respondents said they have a quality-assurance step in their registration or post-registration process. A total of 55 percent of respondents were able to communicate the duplicate medical record rate within their organization, but additional questions relating to how the duplicate rate was calculated indicate a lack of a standard definition for duplicate rate calculation.

Astoundingly, 57 percent of respondents work duplicate records regularly. Of those respondents, 73 percent work duplicates at a minimum of once per week. The top five challenges identified by survey respondents are:

  • registration staff turnover
  • record matching/patient search terminology and/or algorithms
  • lack of resources to correct duplicates
  • inadequate information governance policy support
  • lack of executive support

AHIMA says these challenges showcase the diversity and complexities confounding resolution of this key component for sharing information. According to a statement released by the organization, accurate patient matching "underpins and enables the success of all strategic initiatives in healthcare."

Specifically, identifiers serve to "link" all patient data. Compromising this linking ability compromises care delivery.

Information governance encompassing patient matching is essential to successfully executing disruptive and transformational healthcare activities, AHIMA officials said.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's "Patient Identification and Matching Final Report," released in February 2014, recommended that organizations move to "prevention" of duplicate record creation versus the current method of back-end data stewardship.