Senate Votes to Remove Ban for Funding Unique Patient Health Identifier

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s vote is seen as a victory for AHIMA and other leading healthcare organizations.

There was a hint of expectation when Katherine Lusk, chair and president of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), recently teased Talk-Ten-Tuesdays audience members regarding a pending piece of legislation for a national patient identification program.

The Patient ID Now coalition, of which AHIMA is a founding member, continues to make an impact on the problem of patient misidentification. “We’re proud of the Framework for a National Strategy on Patient Identity that Patient ID Now released earlier this year,” Lusk said.

Later that same day, on Oct. 19, the U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Committee removed a longstanding prohibition to fund a national patient identifier program. AHIMA, along with a coalition of other healthcare organizations, had rallied around the cause.

According to the bill’s text, released by AHIMA, it “drops prohibition on using funding to develop a unique patient health identifier for each individual’s health information. The longstanding ban has been a barrier for health institutions to reliably share information about patients, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, for health entities to effectively trace contacts and track immunizations.”

“By joining the bipartisan movement to remove barriers to accurate patient identification, the Senate has taken a firm step towards protecting patient safety, patient privacy, and supporting efforts to address patient identification issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” AHIMA said in a news release posted on its website. “Patient ID Now has highlighted challenges caused by patient misidentification in the healthcare sector’s response to the pandemic. These challenges include thousands of duplicate records created during the vaccination registration process and disruptions in vaccine availability at provider sites because of inaccurate patient documentation.”

Lusk said AHIMA continues to promote the importance of protecting and securing health information. She told Talk Ten Tuesdays audience members that the Association had recently launched its own AHIMA dHealth™, a seal-of-approval program that helps digital health companies demonstrate how they protect patient health information.

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