CHIME: Patient identification the biggest challenge to safe health data exchange

Healthcare IT stakeholder groups in the last week have spoken out about changes they would like to see made they believe would improve the 21st Century Cures Initiative.

For instance, in a letter sent to Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), College of Healthcare Information Management Executives President and CEO Russell Branzell and Board Chair Charles Christian mince no words when it comes to their stance on the need for better patient identification, calling it "the most significant challenge" to safe health information exchange.

"As data exchange increases among providers, patient data matching errors and mismatches will become exponentially more dangerous and costly," Branzell and Christian say. "CHIME calls on Congress to remove the prohibition baring federal regulators from developing standards to improve positive patient identification."

They add that such a prohibition is "outdated," and say that at present, a longitudinal care record is "only an ideal."

Branzell and Christian also emphasize the need for security to be a priority, pointing out that with increased interoperability comes increased "threats to data integrity."

Both CHIME and Health IT Now also call for an improvement to current telemedicine policies. Branzell and Christian say Medicare reimbursement policies have not kept up with the uptick in doctor-patient encounters outside of traditional care settings. Meanwhile, Health IT Now Executive Director Joel White says too little emphasis is placed on the importance of telehealth.

"The fact that in 2014 Medicare reimbursed $14 million for telehealth services out of a total of approximately $615 billion--merely 0.0023 percent of total spending--reflects the low priority placed on telehealth by Congress," White says. "In the private sector, at the VA, and in the DOD, new technologies are being integrated directly into the acute medical benefit, but Medicare's law is stuck in the 20th century."

White adds that interstate medical licensure cannot be ignored in the midst of any efforts to improve the state of telehealth. "Medicare doctors should be able to treat Medicare patients across state lines without having to obtain multiple licenses," White says.

An updated draft of the 21st Century Cures Act unveiled late last month did not include language pertaining to telemedicine or interoperability, but did include placeholders for such language to be added later.

To learn more:
- here's the CHIME letter (.pdf)
- check out the Health IT Now statement