Here is latest installment from the HIMSS Privacy and Security Committee…called PSST!. Keep reading to learn more about the column and this month’s topic – Patient Identity Integrity. Lisa Gallagher, Senior Director, Privacy & Security, HIMSS.
The HIMSS Privacy and Security Committee chose the topic of Patient Identity Integrity (PII) as the “PSST” for this month. A hot topic for sure, our committee has been fortunate to have a work group (WG) that has addressed the complexities of the issue over the past couple of years.
The PII WG, ably led by HIMSS John A. Page award winner Barbara Demster, has delivered timely and tangible results we are anxious to share. I will get to that a bit later. However, this work group did discover its PII Toolkit, published in September 2011, ranked as the first, central source on this topic.
Let’s begin with a description of the issue.
PII relates to having one common, individually unique data point (or combination of data points) used to identify patients. This differentiation and standardization are important internally to a healthcare system as well as across multiple healthcare systems.
Equally important is the integrity of this individual identifier. The accuracy and integrity of the information can cost the healthcare system and negatively impact patient safety. Social security numbers can be mistyped, or medical records numbers can be assigned in error, or any other number of data integrity missteps can happen (inadvertently or on purpose). With health information exchanges in place and increasing (a good future PSST!), clinical and business cases for standardizing on PII and instituting controls only gets more important.
In fact, according to AHIMA,
“(HIEs)…decreased dollars spent on redundant tests; reduced the number of patient admissions to hospitals for medication errors, allergies, or interactions; decreased the cost of care for chronically ill patients; or reduced staff time spent on administration. These results support recent findings from a RAND report stating that the potential benefits of a connected, interoperable healthcare system could save an estimated $80 billion per year.” (1)
So the imperative is clear. If HIEs connect us to better healthcare, PII is a concept and process that we must address and for which we must find viable solutions. For these reasons, HIMSS has taken the lead in several ways I want to share with you.
First, HIMSS visibly supports the establishment of an Informed Patient Identity Solution. That initiative is officially HIMSS Public Policy Principle 5.15 (2). As action steps, HIMSS and coalition partners briefed over 40 Congressional offices on the concept, with most people who were briefed concurring.
Continued efforts are underway to obtain a sponsor for the GAO study request letter. That action began in June of 2011, updated in August 2011, and legislative report language has since been drafted authorizing HHS/ONC to study the issue (3). These are big “wins” that could not have happened without significant HIMSS membership participation.
As promised, I also want to share with you the awesome work our HIMSS PII Work Group has accomplished. Within the toolkit, you will find a plethora of information and guidance on security safeguards, model interface protocols, executive training and so much more!
Take some time and visit.
- HIMSS PII Working Group White Paper
- HIMSS PII Working Group PII Toolkit
- “Successful Patient Identity Management in Government Agencies”
- “Managing the Integrity of Patient Identity”
In conclusion, PII is a worthy topic for this month’s PSST!. Whether you are in direct patient care, deal with de-duplication of medical records, establish HIEs, operate in accounts receivable or work in healthcare anywhere, you must agree that having a way to confidently identify our patients every time and at every point of care should be a central focus.
How can we really claim meaningful use of EHRs and CPOE and not solve these PII issues?
Have an idea for a future “PSST!?” Contact Sean Murphy; Chair, HIMSS Privacy and Security Committee, email@example.com
(1) AHIMA. “Managing the Integrity of Patient Identity in Health Information Exchange” Journal of AHIMA 80, no.7 (July 2009): 62-69.
(2) HIMSS Public Policy Principle 5.15: Support establishment of an informed patient identity solution. Because the U.S. Congress has banned HHS from spending any resources to study a Unique Identifier (UI) solution, recommend that Congress direct the GAO to conduct a study of the technology options of implementing a UI solution. Based on the results of this study, Congress should lift the ban and direct HHS to study the cost/benefit and practicality of implementing a UI solution and to establish pilot implementations of unique identifiers to document the challenges and benefits. HIMSS 2011-2012 Public Policy Principles