Intermountain’s chief information officer Marc Probst, a board member for the College of Health Information Management Executives, was one of five experts invited to brief congressional staffers.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT, August 28, 2019 /24-7PressRelease/ — Intermountain Healthcare leaders are among those working to end a two-decade ban on the use of federal funds to adopt a nationwide “unique patient identifier,” a universal way all healthcare organizations can properly identify patients. A repeal of the ban was passed earlier this summer by the U.S. House of Representatives. Now healthcare leaders from across the country are working to get the ban repealed by the Senate as well.

Intermountain’s chief information officer Marc Probst, a board member for the College of Health Information Management Executives, was one of five experts invited to brief congressional staffers in Washington, D.C. last month.

The unique patient identifier ban was imposed by Congress in 1999, citing concerns related to privacy and security, and has hampered efforts to establish a universal way to prevent patient misidentification. Patient misidentification can lead to serious issues related to privacy, safety, quality, and billing. The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives estimates that nationally one in every five patients may not be linked with the correct medical record.

At Intermountain, patient identity verification is the primary job of at least six caregivers and many other caregivers spend a portion of their time verifying patient identities. Probst said adopting a unique patient identifier could potentially save Intermountain and similar healthcare providers several million dollars annually that could be passed on to patients, in addition to improved safety and quality.

“Those of us who work in provider organizations have seen the serious consequences of this ban on patients and their families,” Probst said at the briefing. “Misidentifications threaten patient safety and drive unnecessary costs to health systems in an era when the industry and Congress are trying to lower healthcare costs. Congress has an opportunity to fix this, but only if the Senate also removes the ban on a unique patient identifier.”

“It was an honor to be invited to explain to congressional staff the importance, from a patient perspective, of removing the current prohibition on federal funding for a unique patient identifier,” said Probst. “Healthcare data standards in general are a personal passion of mine and something Intermountain has played a key role in since the beginning. Data is the foundation for all information systems and having accurate data is a key to success. The universal patient identifier is incredibly important. The patient safety issues alone warrant our involvement. This is an area where we have significant knowledge and capability and the influence of Intermountain does make a difference.”

Probst adds, “The briefing went very well. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. I have high hopes that getting to a universal patient identifier will ultimately receive bipartisan support. I doubt it’s something we’ll see resolution to in 2019, but the fact it’s even being discussed is a hugely positive sign.”

Other groups represented at the congressional briefing included the American Health Information Management Association, the American Medical Informatics Association, and the American College of Surgeons.

Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs.


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