The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives on Wednesday announced it is suspending its $1 million national patient identification challenge.
Inaccurate patient ID is a major patient safety problem, as well as a significant barrier to interoperability and improved information exchange. CHIME had taken on the task of finding a solution and started the challenge two years ago.
"We firmly believe that accurate patient identification is fundamental to patient care today and that innovation will lead to better, more affordable, more accessible and more equitable care," Russell Branzell, president and CEO of CHIME, said in a statement. "Though we've made great progress and moved the industry forward in many ways through the challenge, we ultimately did not achieve the results we sought to this complex problem. We decided the best course for addressing this patient safety hazard is to redirect our attention and resources to another strategy."
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 almost 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.
That change reflects an easing of the attitude toward patient ID in Washington. "When we started on the process toward the challenge, in late 2014, patient identification and the notion of a unique patient ID was a taboo topic in D.C.," CHIME Chief Operating Officer Keith Fraidenburg said. "It simply was not discussed."
Today, there's a much more open take on the idea. The patient ID challenge played a role in establishing that newfound attitude—one that allows for more conversations about patient ID when before there were virtually none, Fraidenburg said.
In a news release, Branzell commended those who had participated in the challenge and encouraged them to participate on a task force that CHIME will lead to continue work on the patient ID. The challenge yielded four finalists. The winner was supposed to be announced early this month.
"We will continue to lead, but we cannot do this alone," Branzell said. "We need industry and government to join us with the same level of passion and commitment that our members show in their positions as CIOs and senior health IT executives."
That passion might be lacking from some colleagues.
Christopher Longhurst, chief information officer of UC San Diego Health believes the lack of patient ID is not a barrier to information exchange.