AHIMA, Stakeholder Groups Urge Lawmakers to Advance Patient Identity Solutions

Efforts to lift the federal ban against allowing Congress to discuss patient identity solutions is picking up momentum, with AHIMA joining provider, payer, and health IT stakeholder groups in asking legislators to make the issue a priority. Additionally, the stakeholders thanked lawmakers for the inclusion of language in the FY 2017 appropriations bill that speaks to the need for a unique patient health identifier earlier this summer.

Last week, in a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House Appropriations Committee and its Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee, AHIMA and groups including CHIME, AHIP, AMIA, and others, emphasized the need for Congress to remove barriers to the Department of Health and Human Services engaging with the private sector to develop solutions ensuring that patients are accurately identified and matched to the correct medical record when they seek care.

Although a patient identifier system was originally proposed in HIPAA, since the late 1990s, the federal government has been prohibited from even discussing the creation of a unique patient identifier system after privacy advocates raised fears that an assigned identification number would be an encroachment on individual privacy. Earlier this year, AHIMA embarked on its #MyHealthID campaign to raise more awareness of the issue within the healthcare community.

“The absence of a national strategy for accurately identifying patients has resulted in significant costs to hospitals, health systems, physician practices, and long-term post acute care (LTPAC) facilities as well as hindered efforts to facilitate health information exchange,” the letter’s authors wrote. “More importantly, there are patient safety implications when data is matched to the wrong patient and when essential data is lacking from a patient’s record due to identity issues.”

The letter points out that patient identity issues frequently start during the admission process and can affect care delivered across the continuum, including long term care facilities, acute care facilities, and emergency departments.

“Accurately identifying patients and matching them to their data is essential to coordination of care and is a requirement for health system transformation and the continuation of our substantial progress towards nationwide interoperability,” they wrote.

AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, FACHE, CAE, FAHIMA stated in a press release that “allowing public-private collaboration will encourage an open discussion and help foster a solution that is cost-effective and scalable while ensuring that appropriate privacy controls are in place to protect patient privacy.”

Click here to read the stakeholder letter.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at The Journal of AHIMA.

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