September 2, 2019

Patient Name Display, existing standards



Part 1: Name Display within healthcare


Part 2: Name display outside of healthcare

  • International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO): Machine Readable Travel Documents

Watch this article as a video

Part 1: Name Display within healthcare

NHS CUI: Patient Name Input and Display

NHS CUI Patient Name Input and Display (Version 2015).  Copy of original document here.

OLIVER, James (Mr)
FAMILY NAME, Given Name (Title)


Family Name:

  • must be all uppercase
  • multiple family names joined with a hyphen or a space

Given Name

  • displayed in title case
  • multiple given names may be separated with a hyphen or single space


  • Family name and given name separated with a comma
  • Otherwise a single space between every other name element

Order: Must display in the order: Family Name, Given Name (Title)


  • must be in title case, not all caps.
  • Allow up to 35 characters for the Title
  • Title included at the end in parentheses


These specifications state that the Family Name should be in uppercase in order to clearly distinguish it from the Given Name. This is further emphasized by separating the Family Name and the Given Name with a comma.

The CUI document clearly notes that the use of uppercase, in general, has the potential to slow down the time to read the name, and can present difficulties for those with reading difficulties such as dyslexia.

However, despite this, the document favours the use of uppercase because they do not anticipate that short names in uppercase will have a significant effect on reading time or dyslexia.

Name Length

In the UK the Personal NHS Connecting for Health Personal Demographics Service (PDS), specifies the following name element lengths

  • Title - 35 characters
  • Given name - 40 characters
  • Family Name - 40 characters

The NHS also permits

Preferred Name (Requetesd Name) - such as the use of the middle name

Nick Name (Alias or Known As) - a name other than that found in their formal name set

Pubmed: 0 results found for

  • family name uppercase
  • family names uppercase
  • surname uppercase
  • surnames uppercase

Part 2: Name display outside of healthcare

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO): Machine Readable Travel Documents

ICAO passport example

Primary Identifier

  • Family Name
  • Recommended that upper-case characters are used - except the prefix (e.g. “von” Mc” or “de la” where lower case or mixed cased is acceptable)

Secondary Identifier

  • Forenames, familiar names, given names, initials, secondary names)
  • Recommended that upper-case characters are used


  • A comma is placed between the primary identifier and secondary identifier when represented within the same field.


  • Prefixes and suffixes including titles, professional and academic qualifications, honours, awards, and hereditary status, should not be included in the VIZ. However, if an issuing State or organization considers such a prefix or suffix to be legally part of the name, the prefix or suffix can appear in the VIZ.”
  • Numeric characters should not be written in the name fields of the VIZ; however, where the use of numeric characters is a legal naming convention in the issuing State, these should be represented in Roman numerals. Any prefixes, suffixes or Roman numerals shall be entered in the secondary identifier field.”

ICAO, Doc 9303
Part 3: Specifications Common to all MRTDs

Other Links

Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names, by Patrick McKenzie (2010)
Thanks Patrick Childers for the suggestion

From the series Building the EHR

Section: Conventions / Patient Name Display

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