Last week, word came from Washington D.C. that the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) included language in a letter written to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions that accentuated the importance of accurate patient identification as a key component to ensure patient safety. In the letter, CHIME CEO Russell Branzell wrote:
“The accurate and effective matching of patients with their healthcare data is a significant threat to patient safety. We must first acknowledge that the lack of a consistent patient identity matching strategy is the most significant challenge inhibiting the safe and secure exchange of health information. As our healthcare system begins to realize the innately transformational capabilities of health IT, moving forward toward nationwide health information exchange, this essential core functionality consistency in patient identity matching must be addressed.”
Kudos to CHIME for resurrecting this issue and calling intention to its importance in the scope of the new healthcare industry paradigm of fluidly sharing patient data both in and outside of healthcare networks to advance to goal of improving both individual and population health. In their letter, CHIME and Branzell also recommended that Congress remove the prohibition levied on HHS every year since 1999 that prohibits the use of federal funds for the development of a unique patient identifier.
CHIME’s actions are extremely significant in the overall scope of inching closer to the establishment of a national patient identification credential because they are arguably the most influential healthcare lobbyist on Capitol Hill representing the general views of over 1,400 members around the world, many of which are healthcare CIOs — a very powerful voice in health IT. The root of the patient identification problem at hand stems from multiple sources – lack of industry standards, a lack of consistency on how patient data is collected, and the public’s perception that they don’t have to show ID when accessing healthcare, just to name a few. Couple that with the aggressive push to establish concrete interoperability between healthcare systems for the seamless exchange of patient health data and you can see where the conundrum lies.
We have always thought that initiatives set in motion by the healthcare industry championing interoperability have always been sort of a “cart before the horse” scenario. Realistically, how can the healthcare industry expect to achieve meaningful interoperability when one of the core issues to reaching that goal (accurate patient identification) gets little to no attention as a key factor in its success? Furthermore, lack of a sustainable, federated patient identification credential inhibits progress towards the “triple aim” of healthcare — improving the patient experience, improving population health, and reducing the per capita cost of care.
Think the situation could get more complex? Don’t worry, it does. When you factor in the explosion of patient touchpoints permeating the healthcare market (e.g. mobile devices, patient portals, mhealth apps), the patient identification issue becomes much more stickier. As the multitude of channels patients can now submit and access health data to grows, any national patient identification solution must have the ability to address accurate patient identification at each and every touchpoint patients come in contact with. No longer interactions in strictly brick and mortar environments, administering care to patients has slowly evolved in lockstep with the rise of digital health capabilities, pushing the urgency to implement stricter patient ID protocols in an effort to ensure accuracy and safety.
Data accuracy in healthcare is unlike data accuracy in any other industry. Consumers can always rectify banking errors for example, but errors in interpreting inaccurate or missing health data can be matters of life and death adding even more urgency to solving the patient identification dilemma.
As we move closer towards opening the door even wider to advanced discussions on the issues surrounding patient identification within the U.S. healthcare system, you can bet that CHIME will continue to be a strong voice and influential entity to mold and shape future policies that address the need to establish more accuracy at each point along the care continuum.
What are your thoughts on CHIME’s statements to Congress? Will their efforts help left the moratorium? Please let us know in the comments below.