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ONC Announces Patient Matching Algorithm Challenge

May 1, 2017
by Heather Landi
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As accurate and efficient patient matching is a critical issue in healthcare and a key element of the nation’s health IT infrastructure, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) will launch a Patient Matching Algorithm Challenge in June.

The Challenge aims to bring about greater transparency and data on the performance of existing patient matching algorithms, spur the adoption of performance metrics for patient data matching algorithm vendors, and positively impact other aspects of patient matching such as deduplication and linking to clinical data.  

Registration for the Challenge will begin in May. Prior to the Challenge’s launch in June, ONC will be holding repeat informational webinars on three Wednesday’s in May (May 10th, 17th, and 24th) and more information can be found on the Challenge site.

In a Health IT Buzz blog post, Steven Posnack, ONC’s director of standards and technology, says the Challenge will help to promote the need for better transparency about the performance of patient matching algorithms. “Patient matching is almost universally needed to enable the interoperability of health data for all kinds of purposes. Patient matching also requires careful consideration with respect to its effect on patient safety and administrative costs,” he wrote.

“While numerous recommendations have been issued over the years to tackle different aspects of patient matching, it is important to recognize that the entire health care system can impact its performance – from data capture at patient registration to the technology and algorithms along the way. At the same time, there has been little transparency about how well current patient matching algorithms perform and no industry-accepted minimum baseline(s), benchmark(s) or testing approach(es) exist,” Posnack wrote.

As part of the Patient Matching Algorithm Challenge, up to six cash prizes will be awarded with a total prize of up to $75,000. Participants will be provided a data set and will have their answers evaluated and scored against a master key. According to Posnack, the major prize category will involve three prizes for the highest “F-Score,” which is the combination of best precision and recall. Additional “best in category” prizes will be awarded for “best precision” (least mismatched patients), “best recall” (least missed matches) and “best first F-Score run.” Participants in the Challenge will get up to 100 tries to score their matching solution.


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