On Tuesday, HIMSS joined nearly two dozen organizations in sending a letter to House Appropriators in support of report language on patient matching that accompanied the House FY2017 Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill.
Although the bill retained the prohibition (levied on HHS annually since FY1999) on the use of federal funds to develop a unique patient identifier (UPI) standard, the report language identified “the lack of a consistent patient data matching strategy” as “one of the most significant challenges inhibiting the safe and secure electronic exchange of health information.” Appropriators went on to clarify that the UPI prohibition “does not prohibit HHS from examining the issues around patient matching” and encourage HHS to provide technical assistance to private-sector led initiatives to develop a coordinated national strategy for accurate patient identification and matching.
“The lack of a national strategy to ensure patients are accurately matched to their health information threatens to stall the great progress the healthcare community has made in leveraging information technology to drive improvements in care delivery and health outcomes for patients,” said Carla Smith, Executive Vice President, HIMSS North America in a joint press release issued by HIMSS, CHIME, AHIMA and HLC. In order to move forward, all parties must be at the table focused on developing solutions. This report language marks an important step by House Appropriators in making this possible.”
HIMSS has, for several years, urged Congress to address the impact of the UPI prohibition, including in our 2015 Congressional Ask: Support Robust Interoperability and Health Information Exchange. This language marked a recognition by Congress of the need to remove barriers to HHS engaging with the private sector to develop solutions to improve the accuracy and efficiency of patient data matching. The letter urges House and Senate Appropriators to ensure the report language accompanies future Labor-HHS Appropriations Bills.
The HIMSS Congressional Affairs Team will continue to work with our partner organizations and Congressional Members and Committees to advance this effort.