In absence of a national patient identifier, there is a need to identify best approaches for a nationwide patient data matching strategy, HIMSS notes in a recommendation to Congress, available here. Legislative appropriations language implemented in 1999 and reauthorized each year since has blocked enactment of a patient identifier, which was mandated under the HIPAA law. The language, which blocks funding for an identifier, has been a barrier to optimal health information exchange, the association notes.
The HITECH Act, however, clearly states congressional intent to significantly expand health information exchange and HIMSS, while not calling for a patient identifier, now asks Congress to direct a study of the issue of properly matching patients and their information.
“Since Congress enacted the restriction in 1999, health information technology has made significant strides toward improving clinical care, enhancing patient outcomes and controlling costs. Similar advancements have been realized in the area of protecting the privacy and security of health information. Nationwide health care transformation is virtually impossible without meaningful, system-wide adoption of EHRs and HIE, including a technologically advanced national patient data matching strategy.”