The leaders of nearly two dozen healthcare industry organizations want Congress to continue to push for lifting an 18-year-old ban that prevents HHS from developing a national patient identifier.
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, payers such as America's Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, providers Intermountain Healthcare and the Nemours Children's Health System, prescription drug network Surescripts and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives were among the 22 groups to sign a letter (PDF) sent to the chairs and ranking members of the House Appropriations Committee and its Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee.
The letter asks the committee to “develop a coordinated national strategy that will promote patient safety by accurately identifying patients to their health information.”
Providers and other users of electronic health records now often use a technique called probabilistic matching. It matches patients to their electronic records using mathematical algorithms that take basic demographic data in those records, such as first and last names, date of birth and sex, and calculates the probability the patient's records being queried belong to the patient seeking care.
Critics of existing patient-matching techniques allege they add costs and patient safety risks and hinder effective health information exchange.
HIPAA called for developing a nationwide unique patient identifier, or UPI.
A year later, however, the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics, an health IT official advisory group to HHS, recommended that HHS not adopt a UPI until after federal privacy legislation was enacted.
Various subsequent private-sector efforts to resurrect industry interest in the UPI, also known as a national patient identifier and other names over the years, have come to dead ends.
In 2006, for example, the Markle Foundation, a not-for-profit group concerned with technology, healthcare, and national security, gathered a committee of health IT experts and spent a year studying the issue. Markle determined the benefit from having a patient identifier system wasn't worth the effort of launching one.
More recently, however, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives took another stab at it, sponsoring a $1 million contest to identify a possible nationwide solution to the patient-matching problem. The solution could include a national identifier.
CHIME CEO Russell Branzell said earlier he expects to announce a winner sometime in the first half of 2017.