HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on Wednesday released the first draft of Project [email protected], an effort to create an industrywide data standard for documenting patient addresses in healthcare.
Public comment on the draft standard will open July 1 and close July 31. ONC plans to issue a final version of the address standard by the end of the year.
The project, which launched in December, aims to create a data standard for addresses that will help healthcare organizations more accurately match patients with their medical record.
When a patient walks into a hospital for an appointment, they'll usually share their name, date of birth and other demographic details with a registrar so that staff can pull the correct medical record. But subtle inconsistencies in the way addresses are written can make it challenging to link up records within and between organizations that document addresses in different ways.
Healthcare organizations currently aren't required to use a specific format when collecting patient addresses—contributing to the healthcare industry's ongoing patient-matching problem.
"As mundane as address may seem it is often one of the key elements used for the purposes of patient matching and linking records," Steve Posnack, ONC's deputy national coordinator for health IT, wrote in a blog post last year. "Project [email protected] is reflective of how subtle improvements in health IT can have a big impact when implemented at a national scale."
The draft standard released Wednesday describes how elements of a patient address, such as address number and street name, should be formatted and abbreviated in a medical record, as well as what special characters can be used.
The draft standard uses the U.S. Postal Service standard as a foundation, with some additions and constraints, according to a document outlining the technical specification.
ONC in its information-blocking and interoperability rule, which went into effect in April, added patients' current and previous addresses to the list of data elements that healthcare providers are required to exchange, but stopped short of requiring organizations to use a specific format when collecting patient addresses.
Patient matching is critical for interoperability, since healthcare organizations won't be able to share patient data with one another if they run into challenges identifying the correct record to exchange.
ONC worked with such standards development organizations as Health Level 7, the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs and X12 for Project [email protected] HL7—which also oversees the popular Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources framework—NCPDP and X12 will each accept comments on the draft standard.
The Project [email protected] technical workgroup, which includes officials from the U.S. Postal Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will finalize the standard in the fall with a companion workgroup at the American Health Information Management Association, which will create best practices and guidance related to capturing and managing patient address data.