The building blocks of inter-operability: A multisite analysis of patient demographic attributes available for matching

Adam Culbertson*, Satyender Goel, Margaret B. Madden, Niloufar Safaeinili, Kathryn L. Jackson, Thomas Carton, Russ Waitman, Mei Liu, Ashok Krishnamurthy, Lauren Hall, Nickie Cappella, Shyam Visweswaran, Michael J. Becich, Reuben Applegate, Elmer Bernstam, Russell Rothman, Michael Matheny, Gloria Lipori, Jiang Bian, William HoganDouglas Bell, Andrew Martin, Shaun Grannis, Jeff Klann, Rebecca Sutphen, Amy B. O’Hara, Abel Kho

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Patient matching is a key barrier to achieving interoperability. Patient demographic elements must be consistently collected over time and region to be valuable elements for patient matching. Objectives: We sought to determine what patient demographic attributes are collected at multiple institutions in the United States and see how their availability changes over time and across clinical sites. Methods: We compiled a list of 36 demographic elements that stakeholders previously identified as essential patient demographic attributes that should be collected for the purpose of linking patient records. We studied a convenience sample of 9 health care systems from geographically distinct sites around the country. We identified changes in the availability of individual patient demographic attributes over time and across clinical sites. Results: Several attributes were consistently available over the study period (2005–2014) including last name (99.96%), first name (99.95%), date of birth (98.82%), gender/sex (99.73%), postal code (94.71%), and full street address (94.65%). Other attributes changed significantly from 2005–2014: Social security number (SSN) availability declined from 83.3% to 50.44% (p<0.0001). Email address availability increased from 8.94% up to 54% availability (p<0.0001). Work phone number increased from 20.61% to 52.33% (p<0.0001). Conclusions: Overall, first name, last name, date of birth, gender/sex and address were widely collected across institutional sites and over time. Availability of emerging attributes such as email and phone numbers are increasing while SSN use is declining. Understanding the relative availability of patient attributes can inform strategies for optimal matching in healthcare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-336
Number of pages15
JournalApplied Clinical Informatics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Data collection
  • Data completeness
  • Data processing
  • Data validation and verification
  • Master patient index
  • Record linkage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Information Management
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


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