Testifying before the HIT Policy and Standards Committees on Jan. 29, Cerner Corp. CEO Neal Patterson called for expanded use of secure messaging technology and clear patient identifiers, saying existing ways to identify patients are not adequate.

He applauded the government for requiring electronic health records to support “directed push” capability--which is secure messaging using Direct Project protocols between providers--under Stage 2 of the meaningful use program. Patterson, in a joint committee hearing on health information exchange issues, then went a step further. He urged adoption in subsequent stages of “directed query” so any patient could electronically authorize release of information to a current provider regardless of where the information presently lies.

“The process should be simple, fast and universally available,” Patterson said. “It should work across all EHRs, regardless of vendor. We believe that directed push and directed query are necessary steps forward for true data liquidity.”

However, these capabilities do not guarantee safe and accurate flow of data and Patterson further called for a resolution to the issue of a patient identifier.

“As the volume of data interchange increases, we cannot continue to rely on statistical matches based on a highly constrained set of data elements,” he warned. “We need to set aside the admittedly tough politics of this issue and do what is right for health care consumers. Cerner is committed to exploring an industry-led approach to the voluntary use of patient identifiers based on existing strong credentials, such as a driver’s license or other established identity. We understand the privacy implications of such an approach, but we believe proper safeguards can be put in place to ensure that privacy concerns are met.”

Testimony from Patterson and other stakeholders on health information exchange issues is available here.

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