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CHIME leads renewed push for national patient identifier

Creating a national patient identification system has long been a goal for many healthcare system CIOs and other health IT leaders.

Now the leading health IT CIO organization, the College of Health Information Management Executives (CHIME), is throwing its considerable intellectual capital behind a public campaign to find what it calls “a universal solution for accurately matching patients with their healthcare information.”

In a release, CHIME said it is launching a $1 million challenge to raise money on HeroX, the incentivized prize competition platform for tech innovation, to spur progress on national patient identifier technology.

“There is a growing consensus among payers and providers that a unique patient ID would radically reduce medical errors and save lives,” CHIME CEO and President Russell P. Branzell said in the release. “Incomplete or duplicate health records 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.”

Also signing onto the CHIME initiative were the American Health Information Management Association, Cerner Corp., the Health IT Now Coalition, the National Patient Safety Foundation, and the Healthcare Financial Management Association.

CHIME is also expected to advocate for a national patient identifier at the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2015 Annual Conference and Exhibition in Chicago next month.

Despite an impressive array of supporters, movement toward a true national patient identification system has been blocked by conservative political activists and healthcare advocates who believe the concept runs counter to individual rights.

And while the original HIPAA legislation in 1996 contained language calling for a national patient identifier, Congress in 1998 rejected funding for HHS to implement the system, effectively killing the idea.

With the advent of the Obama administration six years ago, it looked like chances for a national patient identifier were pretty good. But even strong advocates such as Farzad Mostashari, M.D, former national health IT coordinator, weren’t able to push it through.

Let’s see if this latest coalition, led by CHIME and its members of diverse political persuasions, can succeed when others failed.