- Nearly two dozen healthcare industry organizations are urging Congress to lift the 18-year prohibition on a national patient identifier, Modern Healthcare reports.
- The plea was made in a letter signed by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Intermountain Healthcare, the American Medical Informatics Association and 19 other groups and sent Thursday to the chairs and ranking members of the House Appropriate Committee and its health subcommittee.
- Advocates of a national strategy for accurately identifying patients say it would improve safety, data exchange, and care coordination.
Providers regularly misidentify patients for procedures and other actions, sometimes with deadly consequences, a recent analysis by the ECRI Institute shows. The group reviewed 7,613 wrong-patient events voluntarily reported by 181 healthcare organizations over a two-and-a-half-year period and concluded that most, if not all, were preventable.
In 1996, Congress passed the Health information Portability and Accountability Act, which called for HHS to develop a universal patient identifier. However, the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics recommended against that effort the following year, saying HHS should wait until federal privacy legislation was adopted.
Since, then there have been a number of private-sector efforts to tackle the patient matching conundrum, including a $1 million global competition, sponsored by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), challenging innovators to design a private, accurate, and safe way to identify patients.
The letter notes that while the ban prevents the HHS from using funds to develop a national patient identifier, it doesn’t bar it from exploring issues around patient matching.
The groups ask the committee to include language in the fiscal year 2017 appropriations bill authorizing HHS 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.” The letter also urges the committee to reconcile that language with the Senate appropriations bill.