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Health Agencies Update
February 26, 2019

Preventing EHR Confusion

JAMA. 2019;321(8):734. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.0609

Hospitals and physicians, pharmacists, and other health care professionals are increasingly sharing patients’ electronic health records (EHRs), but how can they be sure the EHRs are matched to the right patient?

That question was the focus of a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, required by a provision of the 21st Century Cures Act. Physician practices, hospitals, health systems, and other entities that share EHRs told the GAO that they match patient medical records using demographic information, such as the patient’s name and date of birth. But they also noted the potential for errors. For example, the patient might have provided a nickname or the patient’s birthdate might have been entered incorrectly. Health care entities may also use different formats for hyphenated names or other important information. Confusing the records of different patients can adversely affect their care and privacy, the GAO report noted.