CHIME kills national patient matching challenge

Healthcare CIO group CHIME abruptly ends its much-ballyhooed national patient matching challenge after failing to raise money and running into difficult technological problems.

A critic of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives' much touted, and now canceled, national patient matching challenge said he all but expected the global contest – which failed to raise any money toward a $1 million prize -- to collapse. 

"While CHIME helped to shine a spotlight on the importance of patient matching and identification, I’m frankly not surprised the challenge concluded in this fashion," Andy Aroditis, founder and CEO of NextGate, a patient matching software vendor, told SearchHealthIT.

Andy AroditisAndy Aroditis

"The concept of a national patient identifier is noble, and could support both identity matching and authentication, but as their … effort shows, it's a formidable undertaking," Aroditis said. "Fortunately, there are solutions that exist in the market that work with today’s identity constraints to deliver a patient match." 

Patient matching contest unveiled four years ago

The patient matching challenge was first announced to CHIME members in November 2014 and was marked by numerous delays and changes to the contest format. The project was formally unveiled March 17, 2015.

While CHIME helped to shine a spotlight on the importance of patient matching and identification, I’m frankly not surprised the challenge concluded in this fashion.
Andy AroditisFounder and CEO, NextGate

Word that CHIME had killed its much touted contest to find a technology answer to one of health IT's most persistently vexing problems was first released by HeroX, the crowdfunding platform that CHIME used in an unsuccessful attempt to drum up donations.

"By placing the emphasis on technology alone, CHIME only managed to confuse the market and make it more difficult for vendors with serious solutions to move the space forward," Aroditis said.

Challenge failed to raise money

CHIME also did not receive any donations or financial sponsorship from any of its members, which include healthcare systems, individual CIOs, health IT companies and others, CHIME officials have acknowledged.

The "CHIME Healthcare Innovation Trust has decided to suspend the National Patient ID Challenge," the HeroX release said. "CHIME remains committed, however to finding a national solution that accurately identifies a patient 100 percent of the time, and will continue to make it a top priority."

The Nov. 16 Hero-X release was followed by an identical release from CHIME.

The move by CHIME and its trust, which administered the patient matching challenge and which CHIME officials have said had guaranteed the $1 million prize, came a few weeks after the group’s annual conference and many delays over four years.

After picking three companies and an individual developer as finalists, CHIME officials had hoped to announce a winner at the Oct. 30-Nov. 2 CHIME17 Fall Forum in San Antonio.

CHIME still pro-national patient ID

CHIME spokeswoman Candace Stuart said in an interview that while CHIME has abandoned the patient matching challenge in part due to the unanticipated technological complexity of the issue, the group is still committed to pushing for a national patient ID.

The CHIME trust will form a patient identification task force and solicit help with it from healthcare providers and health IT vendors as well as government officials, she said.

Meanwhile, Stuart said the trust will hold on to the $1 million prize money.

Also, Stuart said CHIME is still committed to promoting the issue of accurately matching patients with their true identities even though Congress has perennially blocked legislation that would allow a national patient identifier.

 "There is such an acute need for a national patient identifier," Stuart said. "Our members, and physicians of course, see what happens when there’s a patient misidentification."

National patient ID used in Europe, but not U.S.

The United Kingdom, Ireland and other countries use national patient identification systems to confirm patients' identities and match them with their health records.

While national patient ID measures have not made significant progress in Congress, Stuart noted that a bipartisan group of U.S. senators recently lobbied the comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office to promote a national patient matching strategy.

In an Oct. 3 letter to the federal official, the three Democratic and two Republican senators wrote: "Correct patient matching is necessary for sharing patient information between providers, ensuring efficient use of health care resources, and improving the quality of health care."

Under a provision of the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, the GAO is required to submit to Congress by December 2018 a study on patient matching.

Of late, the political climate for national patient identification has become "slightly more favorable," Stuart said. "There are signals, and those signals are positive."

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