Analysis of identifier performance using a deterministic linkage algorithm

Proc AMIA Symp. 2002;305-9.


As part of developing a record linkage algorithm using de-identified patient data, we analyzed the performance of several demographic variables for making linkages between patient registry records from two hospital registries and the Social Security Death Master File. We analyzed samples from each registry totaling 6,000 record-pairs to establish a linkage gold-standard. Using Social Security Number as the exclusive linkage variable resulted in substantial linkage error rates of 4.7% and 9.2%. The best single variable combination for finding links was Social Security Number, phonetically compressed first name, birth month, and gender. This found 87% and 88% of the links without any false links. We achieved sensitivities of 90% to 92% while maintaining 100% specificity using combinations of social security number, gender, name, and birth date fields. This represents an accurate method for linking patient records to death data and is the basis for a more generalized de-identified linkage algorithm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Death Certificates*
  • Humans
  • Medical Record Linkage / methods*
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized*
  • Patient Identification Systems
  • Registries