The National Association for Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM) has called for support for the following petition, which, at press time, was pending with the White House.
The petition says: “Accurate patient identification is critical to providing safe care. We support a voluntary patient safety identifier and petition for the removal of the federal legislative ban that currently prohibits the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from participating in efforts to find a patient identification solution. Sharing of electronic health information is being compromised because of patient identification issues. Let’s start the conversation and find a solution.”
NAHAM believes that congressional language that prevents the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from engaging in any work toward the use of a unique patient identifier is harmful to national efforts to improve patient identification and matching. The congressional opposition to a universal patient identification scheme should not prevent a public discourse, including research and analysis of the challenges that only will increase with the move toward electronic healthcare records and the expectations of interoperability among healthcare systems, NAHAM said in a released statement.
The petition is not calling on the adoption of a universal patient identification, nor does support of this petition equate to support for such a scheme, it said. In fact, the petition seeks to spur interest and dialogue in a voluntary scheme, but importantly a scheme that will include a unique patient identification, NAHAM said.
Reinterpreting the congressional language that bans HHS from implementing a universal patient identification so that a robust public policy discussion can take place is long overdue, NAHAM said. “Certainly our nation’s lead federal healthcare agency should be an active participant in the inquiry into the possibility that such an identifier could reduce patient safety risks associated with identity integrity,” the statement said.
NAHAM’s support of the petition is consistent with its Public Policy Statement: Patient Identity Integrity (October 2015), in which it says “Patient Identity Integrity requires additional standardized data attributes in the absence of the universally adopted unique patient identifier.” NAHAM also said its support is consistent with its current work on developing standards for best practices in the collection of patient “data attributes” as identified by the Office of the National Coordinator’s 2014 report, Patient Identification and Matching Final Report. NAHAM said that all of these resources must be in play to prepare for increasing challenges in patient identification.
The petition was launched by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
“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,” said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA. “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.“
AHIMA says that a possible solution is a voluntary patient safety identifier that could allow patients to create a way for medical systems to recognize them quickly and accurately. An identifier will help ensure all of each patient’s health information is kept together and is complete, while remaining under the patient’s control.
The petition was posted on the Obama Administration’s We the People website. At press time, it was scheduled to be open through April 19, and it would require 100,000 online signatures before it will be considered. To access the petition online, go to 1.usa.gov/1XEXmvu.