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Friday Feature | Will the Senate Fail the Healthcare Industry Again?

Friday Feature | Will the Senate Fail the Healthcare Industry Again?

The Capitol and Reflecting Pool in Washington, DC.-1

BookZurman is proud to share a recent post featuring the insights from guest author, Brian Book, BZ's Founder and President. 

In July 2021, for the first time, the House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill that does not include the patient identifier ban, called Section 510. While this is a step in the right direction, there is still a long road ahead beyond potential Senate approval.
Brian Book

A Road to Unique Patient IDs, Paved with Good Intentions

In a recently published article, “After 20-year effort, Tom Leary of HIMSS is optimistic for removal of ban on patient identification strategy,” the author shares how the ban has been in place due to patient privacy reasons, but expresses how patient safety, and interoperability, can be better served if each patient has an identification number.

Now, we await the Senate’s decision by September 30, 2021. We need this. The industry needs this. Most importantly, patients need this!
With a moratorium since 1999 trying to get this ban lifted, it's been a long time coming. With the ban in place, no federal dollars can go toward development of unique patient identifiers. Once lifted, we can finally work to solve this problem and move away from an algorithmic approach to patient IDs.

What This Means for Patients

By lifting the ban, the healthcare community can finally link patient records by a unique identifier, making patient data more interoperable and available to doctors where the patients are. As stated in the article referenced above:

“Passage of the appropriations bill in the Senate would mean the Department of Health and Human Services could get involved in a national strategy to create unique patient identifiers.

Overturning the ban would allow patients to be identified by a number, which would ensure that medical records are connected to the appropriate person, and not another individual named John Smith.

For instance, it would help in the identification of patients getting two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Leary said.”

This is a no brainer benefit. So, let’s not make it hard…

A Fast-track ID Solution by Looking Outside Healthcare?

Patient identification, in data terms, is not a unique problem.

If we look outside of the healthcare industry, standards-based solutions already exist. For example, the financial-services industry is the leader in identity matching. Credit-card standards, for example, can produce multi-vendor, unique numbers that match IDs to a person, an account, and a transaction worldwide to five- and six-decimal-point accuracy. It’s likely those standards could be easily and quickly customized for healthcare.

Why are we searing for answers that already exist? This is a waste of time and effort. In fact, I would argue that it makes perfect sense for the healthcare industry to leverage the financial industry’s experience and infrastructure in identity matching. The healthcare community needs to stop believing that its interoperability challenges are unique.

Another example we can apply this logic to is patient-matching – the ability of different electronic health records to correctly identify a patient so all of their information is accurately transmitted. This successful solution could be tailored to solve this problem in the healthcare industry. Not all problems need reinvented solutions.

For now, we wait to see what action the Senate takes, and hope it’s one that continues to move this important initiative forward.

Do you agree or disagree? Leave a comment and let us know.

Get to know the guest author!

Brian Book_headshot

Brian Book


Brian Book, Founder, President, is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, and Team BZ strictly adheres to these successful processes, as well as Project Management Institute (PMI) and Agile HIT Standards Development. Brian holds a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Madison University, and applies his experience in creating efficient manufacturing processes to the healthcare space. Additionally, he studied project management at Southern Methodist University's School of Engineering and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Scrum Master (CSM).

Learn more about Brian here!