In a letter to House and Senate Appropriators, the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), along with 25 other healthcare organizations, is urging the inclusion of report language to accompany the FY18 Labor-HHS spending bill that would clarify HHS’ role in advancing patient data matching.
Specifically, HIMSS and the 25 healthcare organizations are calling for report language included in the FY18 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) spending bill that would clarify HHS’s ability to engage with private sector organizations to advance patient data matching. Among the supporters of the stakeholder letter to Congress were the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), Health IT Now, Intermountain Healthcare, Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), Nemours Children’s Health System, Premier healthcare alliance, The Sequoia Project and Trinity Health.
Similar language was included in the report accompanying the House FY17 Labor-HHS bill last year but was not included with the final spending package signed into law.
In the letter, HIMSS and the other healthcare organizations write, “For nearly two decades, innovation and industry progress has been stifled due to a narrow interpretation of the language included in the Labor-HHS bills since FY1999, prohibiting the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from adopting or implementing a unique patient identifier.”
Since 1999, the federal government has been prohibited from spending public funds on the development of a national patient identifier. The issue of accurate patient identification and correctly matching patients' to their medical records has been an ongoing concern and a top priority for healthcare IT leaders. Many health IT organizations have supported legislation just signed into law by former President Barack Obama, the 21st Century Cures Act, for the law's provisions specifically focused on improving patient records matching. The law directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review methods used for secure patient matching, including methods used in the private sector, and then report its findings to Congress.
The patient matching report language that HIMSS, AMIA and CHIME is urging House and Senate Appropriators to include would clarify Congress’ intent “while ensuring that the federal government does not impede private-sector efforts to solve this serious problem,” the organizations wrote. “The language enables the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), acting through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), to provide technical assistance to private-sector led initiatives that support a coordinated national strategy to promote patient safety by accurately identifying patients and matching them to their health information.” The letter writers state that allowing ONC and CMS to offer this type of technical assistance to private sector efforts will help accelerate and scale safe and effective patient matching solutions.
The draft report language highlighted in the letter identifies “the lack of a consistent patient data matching strategy” as “one of the most significant challenges inhibiting the safe and secure electronic exchange of health information.” It goes on to clarify that the prohibition should “not prohibit HHS from examining the issues around patient matching” and encourages HHS to provide technical assistance to private-sector led initiatives to develop a coordinated national strategy for accurate patient identification and matching.
Further, the stakeholders state that the “absence of a consistent approach to accurately identifying patients has resulted in significant costs to hospitals, health systems, physician practices and long-term post-acute care (LTPAC) facilities as well as hindered efforts to facilitate health information exchange.
Additionally, a recent study of healthcare executives by Imprivata found that misidentification costs the average healthcare facility $17.4 million per year in denied claims and potential lost revenue,
“Clarifying Congress’ commitment to ensuring patients are consistently matched to their healthcare data is a key barrier that needs to be addressed if we are to solve this problem, but not the only one. We the undersigned are committed to working together to identify, and address, the various barriers that prevent patient matching today,” the stakeholders wrote.