Electronic Health Records

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AHIMA Seeks Patient Identifier Talks to Improve EHR Use

AHIMA created a petition to the White House, asking the government to remove the ban on the HHS to discuss national patient identifiers in regards to EHR use.

By Jacqueline LaPointe

- The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) recently announced the launch of a petition to address the need for a “national voluntary patient safety identifier,” which would improve patient matching tools associated with EHR use.

AHIMA petitions for patient safety identifier in EHR systems

The petition also asks the White House to remove all legislative barriers that have prevented an open discussion between the government and healthcare organizations about solutions for patient safety issues through national patient identifiers.

The release states that the petition is available on the White House petition website. It needs 100,000 signatures by April 19 for the Obama Administration to release a response.

AHIMA launched the petition as part of the MyHealthID campaign.

“As a patient, you know there’s only one you. But sometimes a name or some personal information is so similar to someone else’s that doctors’ offices or hospitals can have a hard time identifying records correctly,” said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA. “It’s a dangerous and costly problem that can lead to missed diagnoses, inappropriate treatments or unnecessary tests, as well as making it difficult for providers to exchange health information.“

As electronic health record (EHR) and health information exchange (HIE) systems are becoming staple features for healthcare providers, there is an increased risk of incorrect patient matching. Health information may not be entered into the correct patient record.

Inadequate patient matching technology also makes it difficult to increase interoperability. It can be challenging to share accurate health information across multiple healthcare providers if healthcare providers are only identifying patients based on names and dates of birth, the campaign explains.

AHIMA reports that 80 percent of doctors and 97 percent of hospitals are using the EHR. With such widespread use, AHIMA urges the government to open discussions about attaching a patient identifier to health information, like private sectors do in banking and other financial businesses.

The release cites a recent study by the Harris County Hospital District in Houston, which found that, out of 3.5 million patients, there were approximately 70,000 instances where patients shared the same last name, first name, and date of birth.

AHIMA explains that a solution may be available by allowing patients to choose to participate in a system where they select their own identifier. It comparable to when an individual selects a username and password. This unique patient identifier can be used to access medical records.

Through legislation, the federal government has prohibited the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from participating in research and discussions regarding unique patient identifiers.

“The voluntary patient safety identifier – created and controlled by patients – will be a complete and positive game-changer in healthcare in terms of patient safety, quality of care and financial consequences,” said Thomas Gordon. “We encourage patients, healthcare professionals and the public to think about patient safety and sign our online petition and to share it with their networks. We want to make healthcare safer, more efficient and more effective for everyone.”

In its MyHealthID campaign, AHIMA links potential participants to a recent AHIMA survey on patient matching in HIE systems.

The survey found that over half of health information management (HIM) professionals routinely work on mitigating possible patient record duplicates.

Of those respondents, approximately 72 percent work on this issue weekly.

According to the survey, only 47 percent of respondents said that they have a quality assurance step in their registration process and they lack resources to correct duplicates.

The authors suggest developing a national patient identifier to reduce patient matching problems and therefore, increasing patient safety and patient-centered care.

Other healthcare organizations have launched similar campaigns to encourage the development of a national patient identifiers. For example, CHIME recently unveiled the National Patient ID Challenge, which is a $1 million competition to develop solutions for a national patient identifier. 

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