data improvement

How Project US@ Improves Patient Matching With Address Standardization

Introduction to Project US@

In a study published in 2019 by Pew and Indiana University, it was found that using address formatting guidelines would increase patient match rates in the healthcare industry by 3%. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but let’s put it into perspective: this means that potentially tens of thousands more records could be linked daily than are being linked today. That’s tens of thousands of patients nationwide who could have errors in their records and receive incorrect or delayed treatment in important medical care.

Project US@ is an initiative by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to standardize patient addresses for better patient record matching results. Historically, patient matching and interoperability has been a particular struggle in healthcare with a lack of both standardization of information and universal patient identifiers. 

Project US@ aims to alleviate these struggles by implementing best practices for collecting patient addresses so that healthcare systems nationwide have an easier time finding and matching patient records, easing confusion and increasing patient safety and privacy.

In this post, we’ll walk you through a brief history of Project US@, news about Project US@’s Version 2.0, an overview of the importance and guidelines presented in the Final Technical Specification Version 1.0, and solutions to help you stay within Project US@’s guidelines.

History of Project US@

In December 2020, the ONC announced that they were launching the initiative Project US@, in conjunction with programs such as the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP), HL7, and X12. They stated that this initiative would aim to unify address standards across the healthcare industry to help with patient matching and interoperability among healthcare providers.

A draft of the Technical Specifications was released in June 2021 for public comment. They received approximately 130 comments on this draft for consideration.

The Technical Specification For Patient Address Domestic and Military Final Version 1.0 officially released in January 2022. Along with the Technical Specifications document, a companion document from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) was published to give more context about best practices, implementation, and overall data quality when it comes to address information.

Overall, the ONC received feedback from more than 150 organizations including health IT professionals, federal and state agencies, healthcare providers, and more to make Project US@ collaborative, informative, and accessible.

New Updates to Project US@ Expected 2023

As stated in a blog post published in August 2022 by the ONC, Version 2.0 of the Project US@ Technical Specification is being worked on. The expected release date is in 2023.

In this update, Project US@ will work with the HHS Equity Technical Assistance Center (ETAC), to focus on equity so all communities can benefit from Project US@’s address standardization guidelines. Because the goal of this update is to make sure that every community can benefit from address standards, an emphasis is being placed on improving data for American Indian and Native Alaskan communities, as well as those who experience homelessness, active military and veterans, and rural areas.

Project US@ is also exploring how geolocation data can help with their ongoing initiative on address standardization and patient matching.

Importance and Guidelines of Project US@

Before Project US@, there was no standard practice for address input other than to follow the guidelines offered by the USPS® in Publication 28. However, while Publication 28 from the USPS focuses on creating the best addresses for mailing, Project US@’s focus is to support patient matching.

Some of the specifications in the document are best practices for the abbreviations of streets, predirectionals, and postdirectionals, among others, as well as second address unit designators and other special street considerations such as grid style addresses and hyphenated address ranges.

Also included in Project US@’s Technical Specifications are standardizations of addresses for Puerto Rico, U.S. Islands and Territories, military, rural routes, and best practices for business addresses for patients, among other special cases.

Address standardization is important to help with patient record matching. Because providers have different systems and processes in place to manage records, it can be difficult to make sure that a patient’s electronic health record has all their sensitive information included, especially if they see multiple practitioners across different practices.

There are numerous benefits associated with matching patient data into one complete record. First and foremost, patients will receive accurate and timely treatments when all their information is accessible in one record, as well as a surety that medications and other sensitive information will reach the intended patients. This will also help cut down on billing and payment errors, help providers save money by cutting down on waste associated with undeliverable mail, and give providers better insight into their patients for research and reporting.

Read Project US@‘s Technical Specification Final Version 1.0 here!

Melissa Can Help

While the USPS’s guidelines for addresses play an important role in Project US@’s specifications, the USPS’s address validation services cannot be used by healthcare providers. However, there are many third-party providers that you can utilize to be both Project US@ and USPS compliant.

Melissa is one such provider. With over 38 years of experience in address verification and data quality, Melissa is the leading provider of address and identity verification tools. We are USPS CASS certified, as well as HIPAA and HITECH compliant, and both Melissa’s Address Object and Personator solutions are in compliance with Project US@. (For a full list of Melissa’s certifications, visit our Certifications and Compliance page.) Melissa also offers data cleansing, matching, and geocoding services that can help with your Project US@ implementation efforts.

Our solutions validate address information at point of entry, standardize addresses, and detect missing address components such as suite numbers, and help with overall data quality for better interoperability and patient matching, and more. They are flexible and customizable to fit your needs, and can be integrated easily into your existing systems.

Implementing these changes may seem daunting, but Melissa is here to help. For more information on how we can help, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

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