Surveying the RHIO landscape. A description of current RHIO models, with a focus on patient identification

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Across the country, new RHIOs are being formed every day. The 21 RHIOs studied by the work group illustrate the variety of purposes, funding, and record linking methods RHIOs may adopt. As this trend continues to evolve and improve, RHIOs may prove to be a valuable stepping stone on the road to a national system in which a patient's medical data will be available anywhere, anytime. Accurate patient identification and linking are the foundation of health technology that is implemented in a RHIO or any similar network that shares patient information. Without accurate patient identification, patient safety and quality of care are compromised. When high percentages of duplication or overlaying of records occurs in electronic health record databases, physician trust in the system is lost. As HIM professionals, we must be involved in addressing the security and confidentiality of RHIO databases and in defining the record linking method appropriate to the RHIO. As professionals skilled in patient identification methods and possessing significant organizational skills and personnel management experience, HIM professionals should become involved in this process at the earliest opportunity in the RHIO formation. HIM professionals can participate in long-term planning, business plan development, and organizational structure definition. Future articles will address how HIM professionals can become involved, what particular attributes and skills they can bring to the table, and job descriptions appropriate to HIM professionals in the healthcare information sharing industry. The work group urges all HIM professionals to become involved personally in this exciting new field.