AHIMA kicks off national patient ID petition drive

Calling the lack of a unique patient ID both costly and dangerous, the association is looking to the White House to help make healthcare safer and more effective.
By Bernie Monegain
11:41 AM
AHIMA CEO Lynn Thomas Gordon

The American Health Information Management Association launched an effort to collect 100,000 signatures on a petition to ask the White House to address the need for a unique patient ID.

While other groups, such as HIMSS and CHIME, have both supported a national patient ID – CHIME notably with a million dollar contest – AHIMA is taking a new approach.

“As a patient, you know there’s only one you. But sometimes a name or some personal information is so similar to someone else’s that doctors’ offices or hospitals can have a hard time identifying records correctly,” AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon said in a statement. “It’s a dangerous and costly problem that can lead to missed diagnoses, inappropriate treatments or unnecessary tests, as well as making it difficult for providers to exchange health information.”

[Also: Epic CEO Judy Faulkner on the need for a national patient ID]

Thomas Gordon suggested that the government could turn to experts in other sectors, such as banking and finance, as well as security experts, for help in making healthcare safer and more effective.

“The voluntary patient safety identifier – created and controlled by patients – will be a complete and positive game-changer in healthcare in terms of patient safety, quality of care and financial consequences,” Thomas Gordon added.

The petition asks for the removal of the federal legislative ban that has prohibited the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from participating in efforts to find a patient identification solution.

The challenge of accurate patient identification is illustrated by a study conducted by the Harris County Hospital District in Houston, which found that, among 3.5 million patients, there were nearly 70,000 instances where two or more patients shared the same last name, first name and date of birth. Among these were 2,488 different patients named Maria Garcia and 231 of those shared the same birth date.

AHIMA’s petition is available on petitions.whitehouse.gov. Officials said they have to collect the 100,000 signatures by April 19 to ensure a response from the Obama administration.

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