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Virtual Clipboard Pilot for Patient Matching Moves Forward

By Jennifer Bresnick

- The Virtual Clipboard project, a collaborative push to improve patient matching, registration, and health data interoperability in a standardized way, is moving forward into its pilot phase, announced stakeholders today.  Led by the Sullivan Institute for Healthcare Innovation, WEDI, HIMSS, and MGMA, the Virtual Clipboard initiative hopes to streamline the patient intake process, making it simpler to exchange and coordinate basic health information as patients move across the care continuum.

Patient matching and health data interoperability

“We expect the Virtual Clipboard Initiative to significantly improve the burdensome patient intake process – a critical and overlooked component of the healthcare delivery system,” said Devin Jopp, EdD, President and CEO of WEDI. “In an unprecedented collaborative effort, key stakeholders from across the healthcare continuum have come together to define initial standards for mobile healthcare applications. Leveraging the technology that many patients already use, the pilot seeks to demonstrate dramatic improvements to the healthcare registration process.”

The first phase of the pilot will address the challenges of automatically collecting patient data, including payer information and demographics.  In the absence of a national patient identifier (NPI) that would easily tie a patient to his or her longitudinal health record, the Virtual Clipboard hopes to bridge the gaps between providers that makes matching patient records a complicated proposition

Duplicate records, incorrect merging of records, or wrong-person matches pose serious patient safety risks, not to mention privacy concerns.  While many healthcare organizations rely on analytics algorithms that volunteer potential matches using confidence intervals based on similarities in existing information, these methods are not foolproof, and are often foiled by insufficient data integrity and low levels of standardization.

The Virtual Clipboard project is just one of several industry attempts to address this critical aspect of information governance.  AHIMA and CHIME have both turned the spotlight on patient matching in recent months, calling it a critical foundational component for a healthcare system that hopes to achieve widespread data interoperability, improved population health management, and effective care coordination. 

READ MORE: AHA Calls for Changes to Qualified Entity Data Sharing Rules

There is also a direct business case for implementing technologies like the Virtual Clipboard, said Jopp to HealthITAnalytics.com when the initiative was first introduced.  Making it easier for patients to inform providers, and then for providers to inform payers, will create administrative efficiencies that will quickly translate into dollars saved.

“For payers, you see significant savings in them not having to print benefit cards and manage that process when it can be done electronically.  So for a payer, the savings are in the millions of dollars, even for a small company, on the management of ID cards.”

“For the provider, you’re talking about not having to re-key information and manage the paper from the clipboards,” he added. “And practice management system vendors will be making it easy for their customers to do business, and there’s value there too. So I think there’s sufficient value here. And probably the most value is for the consumer, who is getting to the point of demanding this. Having the industry be proactive about it and doing it before our customers get ahead of us is critical.”

The pilot phase will start by defining a set of data standards and criteria to flesh out the platform’s framework, says a proposal document, while identifying barriers that may impede implementation.  Mobile device use will be central to the initiative’s success, and the partnership will work to “define the strategy for a mobile application solution as a set of standardized approaches, interfaces and integration points that any application developer, organization or vendor could utilize to create an application.”

The organizations envision the use of a single patient access ID, optimized for mobile devices, which will work with every patient-provider interaction that falls under the Virtual Clipboard’s purview.  A single point of access and a choice of mobile platforms will help to eliminate intake redundancies, make it easier for patients to fully inform their providers of their complete medical history, and speed up a more comprehensive, trusted intake process for administrative staff.

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Initially, the pilot will focus on the most basic tasks involved in patient matching: identifying the user, electronically acquiring ID card information, and exchanging that information to a practice management system.  The addition of more advanced capabilities, including a portable medical history, referrals, notifications and alerts, authentications, and billing functionalities, may come in the future phases of the project.

“We are very excited to see the Virtual Clipboard project move into the pilot phase,” stated Robert Tennant, Director of Health Information Technology Policy for the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). “Once implemented, this automated approach to patient intake and data transmission will significantly improve administrative efficiency – while at same time increasing patient satisfaction. By bringing together a powerful alliance of patient advocates, providers, health plans and vendors, the Sullivan Institute, along with WEDI, are forging a clear pathway forward to better patient care.”

“The Virtual Clipboard Initiative pilot is an important step forward as we progress in the multi-phased approach of re-engineering the flow of healthcare information between health plans, patients and providers,” agreed Lisa Gallagher, BSEE, CISM, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, Vice President of Technology Solutions for HIMSS. “HIMSS is eager to bring the work we’ve undertaken with the other aligned organizations to fruition in this pilot phase of the Virtual Clipboard Initiative.”

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