Multitude of healthcare groups ask Congress for a national patient identifier

Healthcare groups including Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) and The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) have written a letter to members of Congress asking for a national patient identifier to increase patient safety and the electronic exchange of data.

The authors provide a number of examples why a national patient identifier is needed to lower costs, improve care quality and eliminate errors. The letter notes that, because there is no current method to accurately identify patients, costs to hospitals and practices have been a major cause in the slow development of health information exchanges between medical facilities.

The letter also details how patient identification errors have negative implications, including incorrect surgeries being performed on patients, missing diagnoses and wrong patient orders. Fixing these errors and making sure patient data is delivered where it should be would improve interoperability across the nation.

The groups also urged Congress to reconcile the House and Senate legislation to include the following report language written by the groups to be included in the final FY17 appropriations bill:

“The committee is aware that one of the most significant challenges inhibiting the safe and secure electronic exchange of health information is the lack of a consistent patient data matching strategy. With the passage of the HITECH Act, a clear mandate was placed on the nation’s healthcare community to adopt electronic health records and health exchange capability. Although the committee continues to carry a prohibition against HHS using funds to promulgate or adopt any final standard providing for the assignment of a unique health identifier for an individual until such activity is authorized, the committee notes that this limitation does not prohibit HHS from examining the issues around patient matching. Accordingly, the committee encourages thesecretary, acting through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and CMS, to provide technical assistance to private sector-led initiatives to develop a coordinated national strategy that will promote patient safety by accurately identifying patients to their health information.”