The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives is looking for a million-dollar breakthrough idea that can accurately match patients to their electronic medical records, preventing medical errors and reducing costs.
The professional association of hospital chief information officers announced Tuesday that it is offering $1 million for a method enabling providers, health information exchanges, and other organizations to automate the record matching system and ensure 100% accuracy. HeroX, an online platform to promote technology challenges, is collaborating with CHIME on the challenge.
Supporters of NPIs, which would work much like a license plate or Social Security number, would allow physicians to access and enter patient information more quickly and prevent the wrong care from leading to expensive or deadly mistakes. Health information technology experts say proper matching would also aid data analytics and precision medicine.
“Quite simply, now is the time to fix this problem,” said CHIME CEO Russell Branzell, who adds that a federal ban on creating a national patient identifier means the private sector has to take the lead.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (PDF) specified the need for a national patient identifier, but privacy advocates worried about security lapses, pushed back. By 1998, they had persuaded Vice President Al Gore, former President Bill Clinton's point man on IT issues, to issue an executive order banning federal funding to create an NPI until privacy and security issues were resolved. A few months later, Congress wrote the funding ban into federal law, making it the third rail of federal health IT policy for more than a decade.
CHIME Board Chairman Marc Probst, the CIO at Intermountain Healthcare, said that within his organization, which has employed and affiliated physicians, the match rates are “probably in the high 90s, running upward of 96%." But with outside organizations, the rate drops to 50% to 60% or lower, he said.
Branzell said other organizations have match rates around the mid-80%, but “we know of others that are far, far worse.”
Branzell hopes the federal funding ban could be lifted soon. He is pushing to remove the provision during next year's federal budget cycle, he said. That would enable the Military Health System, the Veterans Health Administration and the CMS to participate in promoting and using any solution identified by CHIME's million dollar challenge.
“It does not mean we want the federal government to come up with an identifier,” Branzell said. “Their ability to participate is zero until we remove that prohibition.”
The challenge comes a week after CMS acting administrator Andy Slavitt said major changes in the meaningful-use program are afoot. Slavitt said those changes would fundamentally alter the EHR incentive program.
Branzell responded to the remarks by underscoring the need for improved interoperability. Supporters of NPIs say universal numbers would ease the exchange of information.
A winner in the challenge is expected to be announced in February 2017.