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U.S. Senate urged to allow federal funding for national patient ID


Advocates are urging the U.S. Senate to follow the House of Representatives in removing a ban on federal funding for research into a national patient identifier in order to protect privacy and reduce a major risk factor for medical errors, Healthcare IT News reports.

Representatives of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) argued that lifting the longstanding ban would allow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to explore new solutions for improved patient matching with the private sector. The presented a briefing to Senate leaders on the scope of challenges they face with patient identification, and the safety implications of misidentification.

“Those of us who work in provider organizations have seen the serious consequences of this ban on patients and their families,” said Marc Probst, CIO at Intermountain Healthcare. “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.”

As part of FY2020 Labor, HHS and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bills, the House voted 246 to 178 to repeal the ban.

HIPAA originally required a unique health identifier to be created, but the ban was put into place by Congress to address privacy concerns, according to the report. Since then, providers have been forced to determine their own methods for identifying patients with identical names or birth dates.

“Critical to patient safety and care coordination is ensuring patients are accurately identified and matched to their data,” said AHIMA CEO Wylecia Wiggs Harris, in a statement. “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.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have suggested that a single uniform patient identifier is not necessary or sufficient to meet the industry’s identity-matching needs, and NextGate submitted an argument in favor of biometric data collected on mobile devices as part of a long-term strategy to address the problem. Grand View Research has forecasted the global healthcare biometrics market to reach $11.7 billion by 2024.

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