The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology announced a new initiative called Project US@ whose objective is to define a standard way for representing address information in the US. Address information is used along with other demographic attributes in an EMPI solution to help identify duplicate records and to support the patient matching task.

Patient demographic attributes are captured at the point of care along with clinical information about the patient’s visit. The issue is that without a standard in place to define how the address information should be represented, the information is captured in different ways. An EMPI solution, such as OpenEMPI, uses the demographic data available in the messages received from participating healthcare organizations to link together clinical information about the same patient from different healthcare providers. Variations in how the address information is captured complicates this task and can reduce the matching accuracy of the system. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has defined a standard for representing addresses in the US but since this standard allows for alternate representations of certain address information attributes, there are limitations in this standard.

The new standard will be defined in collaboration with Health Level 7 (HL7), the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP), and X12 (along with the other standards development organizations (SDOs) and members of the Health Standards Collaborative (HSC)). Once the standard has been defined, it needs to be implemented by the vendors of software used at the point of care to capture such information in order to ensure that information sent to EMPI solutions capture address information in a uniform way.

As an EMPI vendor, this is a very positive development and we are looking forward to following the development of this standard and supporting its implementation in any way we can. A recent research study sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trust found that standardization of the name and address information can result in a considerable improvement to the match rate achieved by an EMPI solution. We have been conducting research in the implementation of algorithms that can either automatically standardize certain fields in your repository or assist the user in correcting records that have fields that are not captured in a standard way. We plan to incorporate these algorithms into OpenEMPI towards the first half of 2021 and we will be announcing their availability as well as more details on how they function then.

The new initiative was announced by Steven Posnack who is the deputy national coordinator for health information technology. You can read more about the initiative which will be launched early in 2021 in his blog post.