Patient ID Now frustrated by Section 510 remaining in Labor-HHS appropriations

The Patient ID Now coalition expressed its disappointment on Friday about a potential policy hindrance that could slow some recent encouraging progress on developing a more effective nationwide patient matching strategy.

Despite vocal and bipartisan support for its removal, the U.S. Congress nonetheless still included what Patient ID Now calls a “long-outdated” rider in its final version of the fiscal year 2022 budget.

Section 510 of the Labor-HHS appropriations bill, which limits innovative new approaches to patient identification, was reinserted into the bill, despite being removed earlier during the appropriations process in both the House of Representatives’ Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill, and the Senate’s draft Labor-HHS appropriations bill.

Representative Bill Foster, D-Illinois, and Representative Mike Kelly, R-Pennsylvania had helped lead support for removal of Section 510, a narrow interpretation of which has hindered creation of a comprehensive national strategy on patient identification and matching over more than two decades, Patient ID Now asserts.

This puts patient safety at risk, poses privacy concerns, and generally increases workloads and costs for healthcare providers nationwide.

The challenge has been especially apparent during the pandemic – as surges of patients and thousands of duplicate records created confusion around documentation, posed hurdles to care delivery, hampered vaccination registration and sometimes disrupted vaccine accessibility.

“Once again, we are disappointed to see that Section 510 was not removed from the FY22 Omnibus Appropriations agreement,” said Hal Wolf, president & CEO of HIMSS, parent company of Healthcare IT News, in a statement.

“This long-standing, archaic ban has impeded our country’s ability to accurately match patients with their records, jeopardizing patient safety and resulting in significant financial strains on the U.S. healthcare system.

“The patient matching issues experienced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic underscore the urgency to finally address patient identification to improve care coordination and population health management,” Wolf added. “HIMSS is undeterred and will continue working with advocates and policymakers to lift the ban and develop a nationwide patient matching strategy in the fiscal year 2023 appropriations.”

Patient ID Now is calling on Congress to maintain the forward momentum gathered in recent years by finally repealing Section 510 from its Labor-HHS appropriations bill in the FY23 budget.

Meanwhile efforts to improve patient ID continue, not just among policy advocates and industry stakeholders, but at hospitals and health systems themselves.

“Intermountain Healthcare will continue to work to remove the outdated funding restriction in order to achieve a standards-based solution that will enable patients to be accurately connected to their electronic health data as they seek care across the continuum,” said Intermountain Healthcare Chief Information Officer Ryan Smith, in a statement.

Section 510 has been an ongoing frustration for patient ID efforts, for nearly a quarter-century.

“We are disappointed that Congress has failed to prioritize patient safety and privacy for the 24th year in a row,” said Cassie Ballard, director of congressional affairs at CHIME.

HIMSS has been working for two decades to encourage removal of the rider, whose purpose originally, back in the days of manilla folders and paper charts, was to protect patient privacy.

But in the era of digitized and interoperable health records, “what we would like to relay to Congress is that this is not only a patient safety issue, but also a privacy issue due to the sensitive nature of medical information,” said Ballard.

Recent years have seen some momentary causes for optimism, such as in 2020, when a Foster-Kelly Amendment to the language, which prohibits federal funding for the adoption of a unique patient ID, was approved by the House.

And more recently, as recently as October 2021, Patient ID Now – which comprises HIMSS, Intermountain, CHIME, the American College of Surgeons, the American Health Information Management Association and Premier Healthcare Alliance – have cheered the removal of the ban from Senate version of the Labor-HHS appropriations bill.

Yet here Section 510 is again, despite the progress that’s bee made by Patient ID Now – not least its publication this past April of a Framework for a National Strategy on Patient Identity that would, among other goals:

Provide guidance and standards on the calculation of error rates across health IT systems and organizations.

Identify minimum acceptable levels of accuracy.

Leverage public and private sector resources to address patient privacy.

Define the minimum standardized data set needed for patient identification and matching.

“It’s time to move beyond narrow interpretations of archaic laws that prevent forward movement to address patient safety and quality of care issues,” said Blair Childs, senior VP for public affairs at Premier. “We continue to urge Congress to repeal the ban on federal funding for patient ID standards once and for all to help improve the nation’s public safety.”

“As long as patient misidentification remains unaddressed at the federal level, patient safety and public health will suffer, and the unnecessary costs will be borne by an already overburdened health system,” said AHIMA CEO Wylecia Wiggs Harris. “We thank our champions on the Hill for taking up this issue and encourage Congress to look seriously at the harmful effects of patient misidentification.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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