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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

Sep 18 2011   7:49PM GMT

New proposal for patient and physician national smart card

Posted by: RedaChouffani
Medicare, Medicare fraud and abuse, Patient identifiers, Smart cards

Last week, Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced a bill that would require the issuance of ‘smart cards’ to all Medicare members. The bill provisions state that it will become law for physician practices and practitioners to have a membership smart card, with the idea being to reduce fraud by having both patients and care givers confirm during the DOS (date of services) via a device that would allow them to scan their cards, having both a pin challenge as well as a biometric method for authorization.

While this would add a few more steps during visits for many physicians, given the volume of dollars lost due to fraud and abuse of CMS reimbursements, the federal government will be able to offset the cost of implementing this technology with the reduced lost dollars due to fraud, estimated at a whopping 60 billion dollars.

But one question still remains: How will physicians react to this requirement if it becomes law? It has a clear significance to CMS, though I could not help but wonder that with today’s technological advancements, smart cards may not be the only feasible identification system available.

With the advancements in facial recognition and the existence of NFC (Near Field Communication), a technology that an estimated 10% of smart phones will have in 2012, I can see how there are other options that can be utilized for other services within the health care settings. Facial recognition can be used in practices to check-in patients as they walk through the door, without the need of having patient’s sign-in. Also, NFC enabled devices can be used to make payments, using many of the e-wallet apps in smartphones, and potentially used in tandem with a CMS app enabling patient check-in and authentication.

Physicians today still have to deal with several other identity systems, including the new required by e-Prescribing for controlled substances, meaning physicians would potentially be dealing with implementing any number different biometric products, requiring both capital investments as well as setup and training.

Whatever will be proposed as far as patient and physician identification goes, it has to be a solution and technology that can be reused, not only promoting adoption, but also collaboration and innovation.

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