Wednesday, January 09, 2008

History of HIPAA Standard Patient Health Identifiers

John Halamka at Life as a Healthcare CIO has a nice summary and discussion of the history of the decision not to adopt a HIPAA national standard unique health identifier for each individual patient.

I often talk about this topic when presenting my standard presentation on the various component regulations under HIPAA. Over the years I have asked my audiences whether they think having a standard unique identifier would be a good idea. I saw an upswing in the percentage voting yes after the events of Sept 11. However, over the last couple of year I've again seen that number drop -- not really sure why -- but suspect it has something to do with the increased awareness of the vulnerability of health data as wemove more and more toward a completely electronic system. Maybe the high profile data breach reports also have something to do with the reluctance of individuals to have their health records tied to a single number? Maybe concern over state and federal governments or others using the unique number to more easily access, track information or otherwise use the information?

I agree with John's conclusions that I don't see the federal government adopting a compulsory national health identifier any time soon and that health care technology companies in conjunction with providers will move in the direction of working toward a voluntary standard.

The goal of having a standardized identifier structure is something that those of us in the Health 2.0 community should discuss and work toward. Dr Kibbe shared some great thoughts on these issues and points out that this is one of the pieces of the puzzle that we need to consider as an "accelerator" for Health 2.0.

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