Group promotes using unique patient IDs for shared EMRs

An industry non-profit, the National Alliance for Health Information Technology, has begun promoting the idea that it's wise to create a system of unique patient identifier ID numbers for use in health data sharing. Without such unique numbers, chaos is likely to ensue as the volume of data grows, members suggest. Under their proposal, patients would voluntarily subscribe to use their number.

Right now, when patient data is shared between providers, systems typically use existing data such as patient names, addresses and birth to roll up patient information within distributed health information networks. However, that's only generating a 90 percent accuracy rate, a percentage which is likely to fall as HIE use grows more widespread, contends Alliance member Tom Doyle, vice president and chief architect with HCA. The group is soliciting comments on the proposal through its Web site, which can be found at

To learn more about the proposal:
- read this Government Health IT piece
- read NAHIT's position paper (.pdf)

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