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How a unique patient identifier gets health plans closer to interoperability

January 26, 2021 by Experian Health

Health plans have been fighting against inaccurate member data, incomplete member profiles and duplicate records for years. Without a watertight way to keep track of patient identities so health data is reliably linked and accessible across multiple services, payers can’t always be confident that the record in front of them matches the member they have in mind.

The pandemic has brought this into sharp focus: positive COVID-19 test results aren’t always following members from service to service, and as the vaccination program rolls out, knowing who has had the disease and who has been vaccinated could be difficult to monitor.

As health data expands exponentially and the need to share and connect member records becomes more urgent and complicated, the challenges facing health plans will only grow. Could a unique patient identifier (UPI) be the answer?

4 member matching challenges that health plans could solve with a UPI

1. The healthcare ecosystem lacks 21st Century Cures Act data coordination

The lack of integrated systems to transfer member data securely contributes to safety issues, payment delays and potential audits and fines. Over a third of denied claims for health systems result from inaccurate patient information, costing them  at least $6 billion per year. While this would seem not to impact the payer, the inability to properly link claims to members could lead to an inability to understand the risk represented by the members being covered. Or worse, an inability to anticipate and monitor trends in members health and provide proactive healthcare options.

A unique patient identifier can connect the dots between different parts of the healthcare ecosystem so duplicate and incomplete member data can be detected and eliminated. With a more complete picture of who a member is, health plans can make decisions based on accurate information and exchange data safely and securely. There’s a far lower risk of acting without knowing about recent treatment or test results, or communicating using the wrong address (or even to the wrong member).

2. Healthcare providers have outgrown traditional matching tools

With the volume and variability of health data to be matched, traditional matching tools are no longer fit for purpose. For example, an enterprise master patient index (EMPI), which links all versions of a patient’s record across several facilities, may seem reliable. However, by relying on a single source of demographic data, EMPIs likely replicate errors and outdated information, and may combine records for patients who share certain demographic information (for example, if two patients have similar names and the same date of birth).

Instead, payers should consider a matching solution that combines member roster information with comprehensive third-party reference data. Member records are matched using referential and probabilistic matching, and connected using a UPI. This gives health plans a more complete picture of their members, built on reliable health, credit, and consumer data sources, and allows all parties to understand the person at the center of it all.

3. Discrepancies in member data make care coordination impossible

Members may use different names or nicknames, their address may change, and they may even share a Social Security Number (SSN) with someone else. How can health plans help to coordinate care if they’re not sure they’re tracking the right member?

A single electronic health record (EHR) can follow the member throughout their healthcare journey with a UPI, so health plans can be confident that the person on the phone or in the office matches the record on screen. They can monitor and respond to gaps in care, allowing them to better coordinate care for better patient health, improved member engagement and money-saving operational efficiencies.

4. Members present to multiple facilities, inhibiting care plan tracking

How can health plans reliably track medication adherence, especially when members present to multiple locations? Is there really a gap in care, or did the member just attend a different facility? And if members go to different pharmacies, how can a pharmacist be sure the prescription is going to the right person? All of this can create risks to patient safety and increased costs for payers.

A UPI can help. Experian Health has teamed up with the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP), which sets standards for pharmacy services to exchange electronic healthcare data. A framework has been built for a UPI-based patient matching solution that the entire US healthcare network can use. Not only will this improve patient safety, it’ll minimize staff time spent on reconciling incorrect records, thus boosting financial performance too.

When it comes to mismatched records, prevention is better than cure. With a Universal Identity Manager, health plans can have confidence in the accuracy and security of the data they’re using and sharing, promote patient safety, and improve staff productivity.

Contact us to learn more.

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