Intermountain's Marc Probst: Take thoughtful approach to national patient ID

A national patient ID could improve privacy and security, but if a person is linked to the wrong records, the outcomes could be very serious, Marc Probst, CIO of Intermountain Healthcare, said in an interview at HealthcareInfoSecurity.

The issue led to a congressional ban of creating a national patient ID, said Probst, a member of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's HIT Policy Committee and CHIME board chair. However, the sentiment in changing, he added.

Just the other day, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) launched a  $1 million challenge to find innovative ways to match patients to their records. In addition, draft legislation in the U.S. Senate's Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee would require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study reviewing patient matching methods.

"From what I understand, the privacy individuals are very excited about a national patient ID as long as it's done right ... I think if Congress would look at this a little differently--that we don't just want to willy-nilly throw out the Social Security number--but we can go through a thoughtful process that actually improves privacy and security, then there's no reason for the ban," Probst said.

He wouldn't say what such as ID should look like, but added that CHIME's calls for entrepreneurs to tackle the issue might bring ideas the industry has not yet thought of. Probst said that five years ago Intermountain estimated it was spending more than $4 million on this issue, mostly on human labor to resolve issues.

FierceHealthIT's Dan Bowman recently wrote that the 85-percent matching rate for federally supported health information exchanges is unacceptable and agreed with CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell's statement that the healthcare industry has "an ethical responsibility" to fix the issue, with or without the help of government.

To learn more:
- here's the interview