Imprivata comment letter renews call for unique patient identifiers

A vendor of digital identity platforms for the healthcare industry contends it’s time to consider unique health identifiers to help achieve interoperability.

Imprivata, in a comment letter to policy leaders Seema Verma and Don Rucker, MD, at the Department of Health and Human Services, is asking the government to end the national ban on a unique patient identifier, calling it an impediment to interoperability.

“The persistent prohibition on implementing a system for a unique patient identifier remains an immense policy roadblock,” says Sean Kelly, chief medical officer at Imprivata. “While the last decade has brought significant progress through the adoption of a robust electronic health records ecosystem, our inability and unwillingness to facilitate positive patient identification deeply undercuts the promise of a person accessing or transporting their records in our increasingly mobile world.”

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A 2016 report on the issue of patient misidentification, conducted by Imprivata and the Ponemon Institute, found that 64 percent of surveyed clinicians said a patient is misidentified very frequently or all the time.

Some 20 years ago, the new HIPAA Act included adoption of a unique health identifier for patients, as well as employers, insurers and providers. Patient privacy concerns, however, compelled Congress to drop the patient identifier requirement.

“Simply put, we must resolve this issue,” Kelly contends. “In the same way we would not bank at a financial institution with less than 100 percent accountability, we should not be willing to say that identifying a person’s medical record should approach anything less than perfection. We have the technology; why, therefore would we not employ it fully?”

The bottom line, according to Imprivata, is that interoperability is impossible without positive patient identification and value-based care is impossible without interoperability.

The company suggested offers five components to support a successful patient matching strategy:

* Identity proofing to confirm the patient truly is who he or she says.

* Patient matching or record resolution to determine where else this patient has been seen and what other records need to be linked to the patient.

* Binding to a biometric authenticator.

* Federating; (to form or be formed into a centralized unit but keeping some internal autonomy).

* Utilizing proactive lifecycle management of established identities.

“These steps can and must work sequentially and seamlessly with each other,” Kelly concludes.

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