Commission recommends patient ID standard

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The Commission on Systemic Interoperability, a federal advisory body, recommends in its final report that the government “develop a national standard for determining patient authentication and identity.”

The 250-page report, released today, also calls for a uniform federal health information privacy standard that would overrule state laws that limit or prevent information sharing among authorized individuals and institutions.

The commission is composed mostly of information technology-savvy health care leaders, including physicians, hospital administrators and insurance executives. They wrestled with the issue of establishing a national identification number, which the Department of Health and Human Services would issue, to all patients whose records medical professionals would share across a future National Health Information Network.

Instead, the 11-member body unanimously issued general recommendations for standardizing the diverse systems that identify patients and assemble records. A national ID number would be one way to standardize, the report states.

“The crucial element is uniformity in how patients are linked to their data,” said Scott Wallace, the commission’s chairman and president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Health IT, at a Capitol Hill news conference, where the report was released.

To hasten adoption of health IT, the commission also recommends that the government, employers and other payers such as insurance companies offer “financial and other incentives for participation in a standards-based health care information network.”

The report, “Ending the Document Game: Connecting and Transforming Your Healthcare through Information Technology,” lists recommendations from 20 comparable reports dating back to 1973. Asked how this report differed from its predecessors, Wallace said it focuses on consumers and the benefits they would get from widespread health IT implementation.

The commission recommends that HHS undertake a public awareness campaign to increase momentum for the health IT movement.

The colorful document includes one-page case studies of how patients, family members and health care professionals can benefit from electronic health records that are accessible from anywhere.

“It is fundamentally a story about helping people,” Wallace said, adding that health IT implementation would improve the quality of care and make dealing with the health care system easier. Medical errors kill more Americans than breast cancer, AIDS or auto accidents do, he said.

Many of the commission’s 14 recommendations are in line with the efforts now under way at HHS and elsewhere to accelerate the adoption of health IT. For example, the commission supports the drive for online medication records -- a strategy often mentioned by Dr. David Brailer, the national health IT coordinator at HHS.

The commission was created by Congress when it passed the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. Its recommendations are addressed to Congress and HHS.

Appropriately for a body seeking ways to eliminate much of the paper from medical records, copies of the paper edition included a CD with the contents and some video files. And the report was available online before paper copies were distributed.

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