Healthcare Reform

HIMSS Applauds Senate in Removing Ban on Unique Patient Identifier from Labor-HHS Bill

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has removed Section 510 — a longstanding ban prohibiting federal funds for the promulgation or adoption of a unique patient identifier — from its Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill. 

While the U.S. House of Representatives removed the ban in its Labor-HHS appropriations bill this summer for the third consecutive year, this is the first time the Senate has taken any action. HIMSS and its fellow members of Patient ID Now call on Congress to pass this bill into law and officially remove the ban, bringing us closer to finally achieving a national strategy for patient identification and matching.

“HIMSS applauds the Senate Appropriations Committee for removing the harmful ban and taking action to address patient identification,” said HIMSS President & CEO Hal Wolf. “The challenges our healthcare system experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic have underscored the urgent need for our community to engage with HHS to develop and advance a national patient identification strategy. For too long, this outdated prohibition has impeded innovation progress and jeopardized patient safety. It is time for Congress to finally repeal the ban.” 

In the bill summary, the Committee states:

“The  bill  drops  the  prohibition  on  using  funding to  develop a  unique  patient  health identifier  for each  individual’s  health  information.   The  long-standing  ban has  been a  barrier  for  health institutions  to reliably  share  information  about  patients,  and during COVID-19,  for  public  health entities  to  effectively  trace contacts  and  track  immunizations.”

Broad interpretation of Section 510 has prevented HHS from evaluating a range of solutions around patient identification and matching and kept the department from working with the private sector to identify a complete national strategy.

Patient ID Now, a coalition of healthcare organizations including HIMSS as a founding member, has highlighted challenges that patient misidentification has caused throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including thousands of duplicate records created during vaccination registration and disruptions in vaccine availability.

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