Government funding bill includes huge step forward for patient identification

Dr. Sean Kelly
May 11, 2017

Congress recently passed a spending bill that includes funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide technical assistance to the private sector for patient identification and matching. Imprivata was one of 26 organizations who contributed the patient identification language used as the basis for the Committee report accompanying the bill, which states that, “one of the most significant challenges inhibiting the safe and secure electronic exchange of health information is the lack of a consistent patient data matching strategy,” and encourages “technical assistance to private-sector led initiatives to develop a coordinated national strategy that will promote patient safety by accurately identifying patients to their health information."

Simply put, the report language allows for exploration of better ways to match patients, which is the biggest step forward on the issue of patient identification since a 1998 ban was instituted to prohibit HHS from using federal funds to promulgate or adopt a unique health identifier. Positive patient identification is the foundation of effective healthcare – the right care needs to be delivered to the right patient. And many things can cause patient misidentification, including duplicate medical records and overlays, identity theft, and incorrect wristbands placed on patients.

Now, more than ever, healthcare providers need an identification solution that accurately identifies patients – ensuring patient safety and securing their health information – and we’re pleased that the government is finally acknowledging this and allocating resources to develop a national strategy around the issue.

Biometrics is one patient identification solution that allows for the retrieval of digital health records at any location within the health network. Biometric technology creates a 1:1 link between a patient’s unique biometric information and their individual medical records, and is conveniently embedded in the hospital information system’s workflow through integration with existing EMR, EMPI, HIS, and ADT systems. As the government begins to explore better solutions for accurately matching patients, we hope that they consider solutions such as biometrics that will result in improved patient safety, revenue cycle efficiency, and patient satisfaction while reducing medical identity theft and insurance fraud.