The Role of Patient Identity Management in HIE

By: Melissa Thomas
Posted On: August 29, 2023

In the OpenHIE community, everyone has the opportunity to form unique connections with other implementers and HIE professionals. There are also opportunities to engage deeper in the community and collaborate across other organizations in digital health. The Patient Identity Management Community is one of the practice areas under OpenHIE where people meet regularly to discuss experiences and challenges in patient identity management (PIM).

The Patient Identity Management Community

OpenHIE and the Data Use Community (DUC) have been supporting efforts in PIM as momentum grows. The OHIE Patient Identity Management Community supports community members in the DUC who work and innovate in PIM. Community members continue to express identity management as a priority, and articulate the need to collaborate with others on challenges faced in this area. 

The DUC brings together key stakeholders to improve specific data use solutions through idea-sharing and communication across countries. The OpenHIE Patient Identity Management Community is able to provide technically-focused specifications and architecture to help in solving these complex problems. Monthly collaborative community calls provide the space to empower implementers and investigate PIM approaches with an experienced lens. 

Why The Community Works

The DUC emerged with an initial focus on HIV treatment continuity- where identity management was an expressed need- then grew to establish a forum of virtual meetings and an online discussion board for peers to share and learn from country experiences. 

Following two years of discussions with countries in the DUC, one challenge arose as a common barrier for innovative data and implementation strategies: How can we uniquely and accurately identify patients to report for their quality of care across different healthcare settings?

The Patient Identity Management Community, formerly known as Client Registry at OpenHIE, responded with the mission to enable a global group for promoting, disseminating, and fostering best practices in a variety of contexts, particularly resource-constrained settings. The two communities saw this opportunity to join forces and bridge conversations between the technical conversations of the PIM subcommunity, and implement experiences of the DUC.

Patient Identity Management Educational Scenario:

A patient who is HIV-positive, Sekani, decides to switch treatment clinics for ART. Sekani is tired of the long wait times, especially now that she is pregnant and attends other visits at PMTCT clinics and ANC hospitals. Upon checking in and entering each treatment room, Sekani must spend multiple minutes with a provider at each clinic answering questions of personal history. She is responsible for keeping track of her treatment adherence across all three clinics by herself, and must relay this information to all providers. In the meantime, her old ART clinic is dedicating time and resources to track her down and get her to her next appointment. They did not know she transferred ART clinics, and she told them she was pregnant at her final visit. Sekani has a lot on her plate, and her original ART clinic is spending a lot of time to re-engage Sekani in treatment after her ‘silent transfer’.

Learn more from this scenario and others using the free Identity Management Course on the OpenHIE Academy.

Many national healthcare systems are actively addressing issues of PIM. The Patient Identity Management Community provides the necessary space to discuss the unique processes of that developing work- whether that be completed projects or works-in-progress. At monthly meetings, countries share the progress of their patient identification implementations. For example, in Nigeria biometric measures are being used to scale a national PIM system, and implementers in Kenya shared a framework to deliver universal health coverage using unique patient identifiers.

Sharing works-in-progress allows both the OHIE Patient Identity Management Community and Data Use Community to connect innovations through shared practice, and ultimately improve quality of care globally. On the first and last days of the Annual Community Meeting in Malawi, a roundtable discussion of PIM received a great wave of engagement and connection. The superpower of these connections allow countries to share their experiences of what does and does not work for best practices in patient identity management. 

Working Towards Further Collaboration

Within the next year, the two communities of practice under OHIE and DUC will continue to build the Identity Management Toolkit, a resource of country experiences shared and collective learning modules driven by community members. Learning Modules are being developed within the toolkit, including the “Matching Module”, which outlines the key steps for designing and implementing an effective approach for matching person-level records within and across health-related datasets. Additionally, a biometrics-focused guide will be inspired by countries for implementation and tangible project development. We also invite any feedback and contributions to the developing Toolkit.

Currently, the resources of the community are actively adapting live conversations and connections to share best practices. We invite others to join this growing collaborative community on the last Wednesday of each month. The next collaborative community call with the Data Use Community is scheduled for August 30. 

Interested individuals who may not be able to join the next live session can review the upcoming schedule of calls on this wiki page. The Patient Identity Management Community allows these vital conversations to continue across the globe. As our community grows, more changes can be iterated to improve global systems of Patient Identity Management.