Industry groups press Congress to back private-sector patient matching solutions

HIMSS and 24 other organizations want the feds to support creating unique patient identifiers to improve care delivery.
By Bill Siwicki
01:14 PM

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should provide technical assistance to private-sector led initiatives that promote patient safety by accurately identifying patients and matching them to their health information, 25 industry groups have informed members of Congress.

Allowing the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to offer this type of technical assistance will help scale safe and effective patient matching solutions, the industry groups, including HIMSS, said in their April 5 letter to the chairmen and ranking members of several House and Senate committees.

“For nearly two decades, innovation and industry progress has been stifled due to a narrow interpretation of the language included in Labor-H bills since FY1999, prohibiting the Department of Health and Human Services from adopting or implementing a unique patient identifier,” the organizations wrote in the letter.

[Also: The importance of securing patient identity as health IT goes virtual]

The lack of a consistent approach to identifying patients has resulted in significant costs to hospitals, health systems, physician practices and long-term post-acute care facilities. This lack of consistency has also hindered efforts to facilitate health information exchange, the organizations said.

"HIMSS for several years has urged Congress to address the impact of the UPI," said Thomas M. Leary, vice president of government relations at HIMSS. "This report language would mark a recognition by Congress of the need to remove barriers to HHS engaging with the private sector to develop a coordinated national strategy to improve the accuracy and efficiency of patient data matching."

Misidentification costs the average healthcare facility $17.4 million a year in denied claims and potential lost revenue, according to a survey of healthcare executives in the 2016 National Patient Misidentification Report from the Ponemon Institute. What’s more, 86 percent of these respondents said they have witnessed or know of a medical error that was the result of patient misidentification.
The 25 industry groups’ solution to this problem is to include new language in the forthcoming House FY17 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies draft Appropriations Bill.
“The Committee is aware that one of the most significant challenges inhibiting the safe and secure electronic exchange of health information is the lack of a consistent patient data matching strategy,” the groups said. "With the passage of the HITECH Act, a clear mandate was placed on the Nation’s healthcare community to adopt electronic health records and health exchange capability. Although the Committee continues to carry a prohibition against HHS using funds to promulgate or adopt any final standard providing for the assignment of a unique health identifier for an individual until such activity is authorized, the Committee notes that this limitation does not prohibit HHS from examining the issues around patient matching. Accordingly, the Committee encourages the Secretary, acting through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and CMS, to provide technical assistance to private-sector led initiatives in support of a coordinated national strategy for industry and the federal government that promote patient safety by accurately identifying patients to their health information.”
This language clarifies Congress’ intent while ensuring that the government does not hinder private-sector efforts to solve this problem, the groups said.
The 25 industry groups that signed the letter include the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Medical Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, American Health Information Management Association, American Medical Informatics Association, Association of Clinicians for the Underserved, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, Confidentiality Coalition, Connected Health Initiative, Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission, Healthcare Leadership Council, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Health IT Now, Imprivata, Intermountain Healthcare, LeadingAge - CAST, Long Term and Post-Acute Care Health IT Collaborative, Medical Group Management Association, National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved, Nemours Children’s Health System, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, Premier Healthcare Alliance, Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative, The Sequoia Project, and Trinity Health.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
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