Appropriations says HHS can 'examine' national patient ID


The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) “applauds” the House Appropriations Committee for acknowledging issues surrounding the lack of a unique patient health identifier.

In its Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations report, the committee says it is “aware” that without a national patient data matching strategy, barriers to health information exchange persist. While it will continue to prohibit the use of funds by HHS to adopt any standards for a patient ID, the “limitation does not prohibit HHS from examining the issues around patient matching.”

Unique patient identifiers were required by the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), but in 2000 Congress prohibited not only the identifier but also any testing of one.

Leslie Krigstein, vice president of congressional affairs at CHIME, writes in a statement that while her organization believes the government should lift the ban on the national patient ID, the Appropriations Committee’s comments are a step forward.

“We applaud the House Appropriations Committee for clarifying the limitations this restriction places on HHS and for encouraging the department to work with the private sector on developing a national patient identification and patient matching strategy,” she writes.

The report says the HHS secretary, through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, should provide assistance to the private sector in its initiatives to create a national strategy.

Early this year CHIME embarked on an initiative to crowdsource a way to create a national patient identifier. Its National Patient ID Challenge is a year-long, $1-million effort to encourage entrepreneurs around the world to create a patient ID that is private, secure and safe.

To learn more:
- here's CHIME's statement
- here's the report (.pdf)