The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society recently issued a policy statement asking Congress to study patient identification issues, Modern Healthcare reports.
The HIPAA legislation passed in 1996 called for the creation of national identifiers for health care providers, health plans and patients (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 9/21).
However, appropriations language passed by Congress in 1999 and reauthorized each year since blocks funding for developing patient identifiers (Goedert, Health Data Management, 9/24).
Details of Policy Statement
According to HIMSS' policy statement, "One of the largest unresolved issues in the safe and secure electronic exchange of health information is the need for a nationwide patient data-matching strategy to ensure the accurate, timely and efficient matching of patients with their health care data across different systems and settings of care."
HIMSS noted that several presidential administrations have interpreted the appropriations language to mean that there can be no studies or any other action taken to develop patient identifiers.
However, HIMSS said, "Others believe that the language simply means no attempt to finalize a rule or solution until HHS reports to Congress on how any proposed solution will protect patient privacy and security."
The group said that the "lack of clear congressional intent" in the language "poses a huge impediment to the optimal adoption of health information exchange." It asked Congress to "direct an appropriate study of a nationwide patient data-matching strategy" (Modern Healthcare, 9/21).