Congress offers glimmer of hope for patient matching

Congress

An industry trade group sees signs of hope that Congress will help move patient matching efforts forward--but they're also keeping an eye on the 2016 elections.

In a report accompanying a fiscal 2017 funding bill, the House appropriations committee directed HHS to provide technical assistance to private-sector-led patient-matching initiatives.

"AHIMA is very encouraged," Lynne Thomas Gordon, CEO of the American Health Information Management Association, said in an interview at Healthcare Info Security.

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"We believe it will move forward. It should move forward. If it doesn’t, we’ll work on it again when the next group comes in after the elections," she said. “By allowing HHS to provide this technical assistance to the private sector- led initiative, we feel that very important gains can be made.”

Due to privacy concerns, Congress in 1999 barred use of federal funds for creation of a unique health identifier. Yet correctly matching patients to their records is a huge safety issue in the age of digital health records and data-sharing.

The College of Healthcare Information Executives has offered a $1 million challenge in an effort to find workable solutions.

AHIMA has long warned of the safety implications that lack of identifiers pose, especially when patients come into the ER.

- read the committee report (page 108) (.pdf)
- here's the Healthcare Info Security interview

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