UnitedHealth Group updates its ID cards

UnitedHealth Group has adopted new standards for healthcare ID cards across all its health plans. The cards will provide patient eligibility information and access to a personal health record, and process healthcare transactions.

The new national standards require healthcare ID cards to include a magnetic stripe that can be read through a standard card-reader machine, and also be designed with a standard layout to increase readability and be compliant with the National Council for Prescription Programs.

Officials say this will give physicians and other care providers simpler access to more real-time information about their patients, while also advancing a single data platform for healthcare ID cards industrywide.

UnitedHealth Group is the first national health company to take this step for all its health plans and has already begun issuing new cards for some employer-sponsored health plans, as well as Medicaid, Medicare, dental and vision plans. Officials expect nearly 25 million new cards will be issued by the end of 2009.

UnitedHealth Group collaborated with the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI), the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, as well as physician and hospital associations to create the new healthcare ID card standards.

"These new national standards will create a single platform that simplifies the exchange of information between insurers and care providers so that verifying important patient information will be as easy as a swipe of a card," said Peter Barry, co-chair, WEDI Workgroup for National Provider Identifier Implementation and CEO, Enumeron, LLC.

The new cards will not store information directly on them, and access is permitted only with the patients' permission, ensuring their information is properly protected and secure.

"UnitedHealth Group's new healthcare ID card was created after consulting with physician office staff, pharmacists, hospitals and consumers to ensure that we created an advanced card that is easy to use," said David Wichmann, president of UnitedHealth Group Operations.

"By working with WEDI and others to create consistent national standards on how information is exchanged, we have achieved an important milestone in simplifying the healthcare experience among consumers, care providers and healthcare companies."