The Importance of EMPIs

By Frank Tucker | Oct 21, 2012

Writ­ten by Jas­mine, Sum­mer Intern

Used across an orga­ni­za­tion to main­tain con­sis­tent and accu­rate demo­graphic and other essen­tial data on the patients seen and man­aged within var­i­ous depart­ments, an enterprise-​wide mas­ter patient index (EMPI) is a key method used to man­age patient iden­tity. In health­care, a patient is assigned a unique iden­ti­fier that is used to refer to this patient across the enter­prise. The objec­tive is to ensure that each patient is rep­re­sented only once across all the soft­ware sys­tems used within the organization.

Some of the essen­tial patient data includes ele­ments such as name, gen­der, date of birth, race and eth­nic­ity, social secu­rity num­ber, cur­rent address and con­tact infor­ma­tion, and cur­rent diag­noses. EMPIs are intended to solve the com­mon prob­lem that appears when mul­ti­ple sys­tems are used across an orga­ni­za­tion. As infor­ma­tion changes, whether updated or deleted, it grad­u­ally becomes incon­sis­tent when mul­ti­ple sys­tems are being used but not uni­formly updated. This can even be con­sid­ered a sim­i­lar prob­lem for non-​healthcare orga­ni­za­tions with respect to cus­tomer data but for the pur­poses of this blog we will focus on health­care organizations.

Great, there is a method that can be used to man­age patient iden­tity, why is it needed? What are the key ben­e­fits? Health­care orga­ni­za­tions or groups can imple­ment this EMPI method to help iden­tify, match, merge, de-​duplicate, and cleanse patient records. With these records a mas­ter index can be cre­ated and used to attain a com­plete and sin­gle view of a patient. With this com­plete view, there are numer­ous ben­e­fits including:

  • Pro­vid­ing bet­ter patient care
  • Offer­ing improved cus­tomer service
  • Obtain­ing his­tor­i­cal care related infor­ma­tion from across organizations

In emer­gency or other crit­i­cal care sit­u­a­tions, med­ical staff can be more con­fi­dent that they know med­ical con­di­tions or other infor­ma­tion that would be crit­i­cal to pro­vid­ing proper care.
An EMPI is con­sid­ered an impor­tant resource in a health­care facil­ity because it is the link that sig­nif­i­cantly improves the abil­ity to track patients, per­sons, or mem­ber activ­i­ties within an orga­ni­za­tion and across patient care set­tings. Could sys­tems like Vir­tual Life­time Elec­tronic Record (VLER), Ambu­la­tory Med­ical Record (AMR) or Elec­tri­cal Med­ical Record (EMR) really do what they were envi­sioned to do with­out an EMPI? Would Elec­tri­cal Health Records (EHR) be a debate topic if there was no focus on man­ag­ing patient iden­tity? Take time to really think about it and if infor­ma­tion is being tracked for the wrong per­son or not updated then what would be the point. Thus the key ques­tion as to why this topic is so impor­tant is answered. We need EMPIs to help lever­age Mas­ter Data Man­age­ment and Iden­tity Data Man­age­ment prac­tices so patient iden­tity is bet­ter managed.


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