ONC committees discuss verification of patient authentication

The healthcare industry is beginning to tackle just how patients should access the information in their electronic health records, with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's federal advisory committees holding a hearing last week to garner suggestions from stakeholders in the industry regarding how to verify a patient's identity before allowing that access.

The hearing, "Trusted Identity of Patients in Cyberspace" held jointly by the HIT Policy Committee Privacy and Security Tiger Team and the HIT Standards Committee Privacy and Security Workgroup Nov. 29, sought to address the need for patient authentication, such as misuse and fraud, as well as the usability of patient authentication methods, such as passwords and biometrics.

Witnesses at the hearing provided varying accounts as to whether providers were adequately trained and qualified to verify patients' identities, according to an article in Healthcare Info Security. A witness from the U.S. Postal Service suggested that the health IT industry should consider looking to USPS for help in this area, considering its successes with identification technology and its enforcement power against those who commit mail fraud with false IDs.

Stage 2 of Meaningful Use, which will commence in 2014, opens the door for patient engagement, giving patients the opportunity to access their electronic records and communicate with their providers electronically. ONC's recommendations for Stage 3, which have been released for public comment, extend patient engagement even further, suggesting that patients have the ability to submit and reconcile the information in their records and obtain electronic information in real time.   

To learn more:
- listen to the hearing
- read the article