A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill to improve health care providers’ ability to match patient records and aid coronavirus response efforts.
The legislation would make the U.S. Postal Service‘s address formatting tool available to hospitals and testing laboratories for their IT systems.
Online retailers already use the tool, which could result in tens of thousands of additional electronic health record matches daily, according to researchers with the American Medical Informatics Association.
“Giving health care providers access to the Postal Service’s existing address tools would help save lives by making it easier to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing,” Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., one of the bill’s cosponsors, said in a statement. “This common-sense bipartisan legislation should be included in the next COVID-19 relief package.”
Hassan introduced the Patient Matching Improvement Act with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., after urging the Department of Health and Human Services to work with USPS in a letter sent to Secretary Alex Azar in July.
Patient matching can fail up to half the time due to record typos, changes of names or addresses, and similarities in information between individuals, the letter details.
“Many plans to re-open the country emphasize two key elements: the ability to effectively trace the contacts of infected individuals and broad administration of an eventual vaccine,” reads the letter. “The success of both relies on access to correct patient data — such as names and phone numbers.”