After decades of inattention, the problem of ensuring accurate patient identification is gaining traction. The bipartisan budget compromise frees HHS up to consult private-sector groups trying to develop patient identification and patient matching solutions. This after being barred from such activity since the late 1990s.
And today, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives—a leadership group for healthcare chief information officers—named four finalists for its $1 million patient identification challenge. Modulus, a medical-device manufacturing company, will test how well the solutions—which include biometrics and blockchain—enroll and identify patients. It will also assess security and privacy protocols. The company is the official testing partner in the CHIME Healthcare Innovation Trust National Patient ID Challenge, which seeks to spur the development of a completely accurate patient identification system for use in the U.S.
CHIME members have pinpointed inaccurate patient ID as a major patient safety problem, as well as a significant barrier to interoperability and improved information exchange. Until now, much of the work to address patient identification and patient matching has fallen to the private sector. Since 1999, every HHS appropriations bill has prohibited the department from allocating resources to the adoption a unique patient identifier. Policymakers have long interpreted that language to be a de facto ban on tackling the issue. But the most recent budget bill passed by Congress changes that, allowing HHS to be a technical adviser to industry groups trying to solve the problems of patient identification and patient matching and calling on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the CMS to help the private sector develop a "national strategy" to match patients to their health information.
While similar, identification and matching are distinct: The former is about making sure a provider has the right patient when the person walks in the door, and the latter is about linking that person to the correct medical record.
The bill's language seems to satisfy the demands of 25 healthcare organizations that wrote to House and Senate appropriators last month asking to allow HHS to work on patient matching and identification. In fact, the bill's language comes directly from the letter. "For nearly two decades, innovation and industry progress has been stifled due to a narrow interpretation of the language" in the bills, wrote the group, which included the American Medical Association, CHIME, and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.
"With the clarifying language offered by Congress earlier this month, we hope to leverage expertise within our federal agencies and ensure that the winning solution meets the needs of patients, providers and the federal government alike," said CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell in a statement.
After two rounds of testing, CHIME will announce a winner in early November.