AHIMA co-hosted a congressional briefing on Monday to urge the Senate to support for the US House of Representatives’ recent repeal of a ban on the use of federal funds to adopt a nationwide unique patient identifier. Repealing this ban would allow collaboration between the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the private sector to identify solutions for reducing medical errors and protecting patient privacy.
During the briefing, members of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), the American College of Surgeons (ACS), and the College of Health Information Management Executives (CHIME) joined AHIMA in recounting existing patient identification challenges and patient safety implications when data is matched to the wrong patient or when essential data is lacking from a patient’s record due to an identity issue.
Katherine Lusk, MHSM, RHIA, FAHIMA, chief health information management and exchange officer, Children’s Health System of Texas, spoke at the briefing, along with officials from CHIME, ACS, AMIA, Intermountain Healthcare, and the Regenstrief Institute. The briefing was moderated by Lauren Riplinger, JD, AHIMA’s vice president of policy and government affairs, and Leslie Krigstein, vice president, congressional affairs at CHIME.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) originally required the creation of a unique health identifier in 1998. However, Congress included language as part of the annual appropriations process that prohibited the US Department of Health and Human Services from using federal funds intended for the creation of a unique patient identifier out of privacy concerns.
“Critical to patient safety and care coordination is ensuring patients are accurately identified and matched to their data,” said AHIMA CEO Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, CAE, in a statement regarding the Senate briefing. “The time has come to remove this archaic ban and empower HHS to explore a full range of patient matching solutions hand in hand with the private sector focused on increasing patient safety and moving us closer to achieving nationwide interoperability.”
Marc Probst, CIO at Intermountain Healthcare and a member of the CHIME Policy Steering Committee, spoke to issues a lift on the ban would help address, such as unnecessary costs. “Those of us who work in provider organizations have seen the serious consequences of this ban on patients and their families,” said Probst. “Misidentifications threaten patient safety and drive unnecessary costs to health systems in an era when the industry and Congress are trying to lower healthcare costs. Congress has an opportunity to fix this, but only if the Senate also removes the ban on a unique patient identifier.”