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CHIME Moves Forward on a Challenge-Based Approach to Developing a National Patient ID

July 15, 2015
by Mark Hagland
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CHIME's leaders are moving forward to stimulate the private-sector solution for a national patient ID in the U.S.

Leaders at the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) are pushing ahead in their efforts to accomplish the creation and adoption of a national patient identifier. CHIME’s senior leaders are agreed: it is absolutely time for the United States to adopt a national patient ID. The problem? There’s a core challenge on the policy level, as the U.S. Congress passed legislation several years ago actually forbidding the adoption of legislation to create a national patient ID.

As a result, CHIME’s leaders have been creating a policy workaround. They’ve partnered with the international HeroX Foundation (originally a spinoff of the international XPRIZE Foundation) to create a challenge-based process whereby they can stimulate inventiveness in this area, leading to the awarding of a $1 million prize for the organization or group that develops a solution that can be scaled nationally across the U.S. and, they hope, become a universalized solution in this area.

As announced in a March 17 press release, “The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), the healthcare industry’s leading professional organization for chief information officers and senior IT executives, is calling on innovators throughout the U.S. and around the world to participate in the CHIME National Patient ID Challenge. In an effort to find a universal solution for accurately matching patients with their healthcare information,” the press release said, “CHIME will launch a $1 million challenge early this summer on the HeroX platform, co-founded by XPRIZE CEO Dr. Peter Diamandis.”

The press release went on to say, “The digitization of the U.S. healthcare system maintains that electronic health records must be able to seamlessly share and exchange information. Interoperability, however, is not enough. To realize their full potential, patient data contained in the EHR must be accurate in order to support the requirements of coordinated, accountable, patient-centered care.”

And it quoted CHIME CEO and president Russell P. Branzell saying that  “There is a growing consensus among payers and providers that a unique patient ID would radically reduce medical errors and save lives. Incomplete or duplicate health records,” Branzell said in the press release, “present significant issues in terms of patient safety, and there is a pressing need for preventing, detecting and removing inaccurate records so hospitals can positively match the right data with the right patient in order to provide the best possible care.”

The press release also offered statements of support for the initiative from senior leaders of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the CommonWell Alliance, the Health IT Now (HITN) Coalition, the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF), and the Healthcare Financial Management Association,” among other organizations.

The completely virtual HeroX Foundation, founded in 2013, and with a staff of about 20, has awarded four prizes so far: Agricultural Innovation Prize (2014); the Ellucian Student Success Challenge; the Jerusalem Challenge; and the Rockefeller Foundation Storytelling Challenge (all 2015). It has considerable flexibility in how it handles the issue of intellectual property, which will be particularly beneficial in the current collaboration with CHIME.

Keith Fraidenburg, CHIME’s executive vice president and chief strategy officer, spoke recently to HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland regarding this initiative. Below are excerpts from that interview.

You and your colleagues have been pushing very hard on this initiative around the development of a national patient identifier. What is the landscape around that initiative right now?

National patient ID is really, really hot. We’re happy to see that it’s actually being discussed in DC, on the Hill, in Congress, at the agencies. It wasn’t that long ago when I was going to meetings with agencies and Senate committees, and such, and people would literally say, “We know what you want to talk about, and we’re not going to talk about it, so let’s move on”—and I heard that in a Senate committee! That was two years ago And where we are today, it’s in the media, it’s in the news. And when we meet with ONC, they ask us how they can be supportive and helpful. So there’s a growing recognition that this is a critical issue that has to be resolved.

Keith Fraidenburg

What, at the highest level, would you like to have happen?

Our ultimate desire, which has driven us to this path of working with HeroX, is to identify a solution. The end-state of this is that we will be able to present to the industry a solution for a national patient identifier. HeroX is an offshoot of the X Prize Foundation; they’re best known for launching rockets. They help produce challenges to spark innovation in many different fields. The challenges that X Prize runs are in the 10, 20, upwards of 50 million-dollar range now. So as they’ve moved up in scale and scope, they’ve created HeroX. HeroX’s challenges are generally for a million dollars or less. Our prize is for one million dollars. As XPrize gets bigger and bigger, now you have HeroX.

So they’re hoping that vendors will create a solution?