Senators ask GAO for recommendations on unique patient identifiers

At the same time, Regenstrief has launched a five-year effort that it hopes can help solve the problem.
By Bernie Monegain
01:14 PM
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In Oct. 3 letter, Sens. Orrin Hatch, Elizabeth Warren and others asked for “clear recommendations for steps that federal agencies – specifically ONC – could take to develop improved patient matching methods.”

The complicated and elusive issue of patient matching is about to get a boost with the Government Accountability Office, which is poised to launch a study of the topic and offer recommendations.

Several healthcare IT organizations have tackled the issue of patient matching, but with no concrete results to show for it to date.

The most recent group to make an effort on the complicated issue is Regenstrief Institute. Last August Regenstrief won a $1.7 million grant over five years to take a crack at the complicated matter.

[Also: Regenstrief wins $1.7 million AHRQ grant to tackle the elusive patient ID puzzle]

The GAO work comes at the behest of a provision in the 21st Century Cures Act, and the five senators behind it have asked the GAO for its advice.

In the Oct. 3 letter to the GAO, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Orrin Hatch, Sheldon Whitehouse, Tammy Baldwin and Bill Cassidy asked for “clear recommendations for steps that federal agencies – specifically ONC – could take to develop improved patient matching methods.”

The senators also asked the GAO to provide data on the prevalence of patient data mismatches and the costs and risks associated with these mismatches.

[Also: Patient matching strategy gains ground with support from Congress]

They also point out that patient misidentification can lead to inadequate, inappropriate, and costly care and, in the worst cases, patient harm or death.

In 1996, when HIPAA was signed into law, it required the creation of patient identifiers and other uniform standards for electronic data transmission to improve reliability of health information, the senators note in their letter.

However, Congress later barred the Department of Health and Human Services from spending funds to develop a unique patient identifier system.

As a result, the development of patient identifiers are often proprietary and unique to specific health systems, instead of one identifier that travels with a patient from provider to provider, they added.

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com