Patient ID Now coalition releases national strategic framework for identity, matching

The framework calls on the federal government to partner with other public health authorities and the private sector to ensure patient safety and security.
By Kat Jercich
12:07 PM

(Photo by bymuratdeniz/Getty Images)

Patient ID Now, a coalition of more than 40 healthcare organizations, released a framework this week aimed at creating a national strategy around patient identification that protects individual safety and security.  

In the framework, the coalition calls on the federal government to closely collaborate with the private sector and with other public health authorities in working toward the goal of accurate patient identification.  

"Throughout the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to address the issue of patient identification. The inability to accurately match patients with their records has severe patient safety and financial implications, and impedes health information exchange," said Hal Wolf, president and CEO of Healthcare IT News parent company HIMSS, in a statement. 

"The framework lays the foundation for a national strategy that saves lives, while protecting a patient's choice and privacy rights," Wolf added.


No consistent and accurate way exists to link patients to their health information – leading to safety risks, security consequences and financial burdens.  

This has become a particularly fraught issue during the COVID-19 vaccine rollout efforts. Hospitals and health systems have reported duplicate records – costing thousands of dollars to rectify – and mistakes in administration data.

The Patient ID Now workgroup formed in January 2021 with an eye toward addressing that gap. 

In addition to HIMSS, the coalition includes the American College of Surgeons, the American Health Information Management Association, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, Intermountain Healthcare and Premier Healthcare Alliance.  

"Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to address patient misidentification throughout the health ecosystem," said AHIMA CEO Wylecia Wiggs Harris in a statement.   

"Accurate identification of patients is one of the most difficult operational issues during a public health emergency, and the nationwide response to the pandemic, including the rollout of the vaccination programs, has highlighted the repercussions of not having a nationwide strategy to connect patients with their data," Harris added.  

The framework addresses several main components of a national strategy: accurate identification and match rates, privacy, security, standardization, portability and interoperability, data quality, integration with current systems, equity and inclusion, and sustainability and governance.  

Among others, the coalition's recommendations for a national strategy include:  

  • Providing guidance and standards on the calculation of error rates across health IT systems and organizations.
  • Identifying minimum acceptable levels of accuracy.
  • Leveraging public and private sector resources to address patient privacy.
  • Defining the minimum standardized data set needed for patient identification and matching.

"Release of this Framework for a National Strategy on Patient Identity is an important step forward toward an effective national strategy on patient identification. This essential but missing functionality would add significantly to providers’ ability to manage care safely, and if it were in place, it would assist in effectively battling the coronavirus," said Intermountain Chief Information Officer Ryan Smith.  


Although the workgroup formed in January, industry groups have been ruminating on how best to tackle the patient-matching challenge for years.  

In July 2019, AHIMA and CHIME called on lawmakers to enable forward movement for a unique patient identifier. Although the House of Representatives made progress in this regard this past July, as of November 2020, the Senate had failed to follow suit.  

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 crisis has magnified the need.   

"Having incorrect data has a negative impact on the timeliness of the public health response," said HIMSS Senior VP of Government Relations Tom Leary during an Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT working group in August 2020.   


"Advancing policies laid out in this framework will improve the nation’s pandemic response and overall public safety," said Blair Childs, Premier Inc. senior vice president of public affairs. "It will also remove obstacles to care coordination and nationwide interoperability, as well as save millions in associated costs for the healthcare system."


Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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