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Unique Patient Identifier- Why Is It So Badly Needed?

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Why Unique Patient Identifier is important?

Debates regarding Unique Patient Identifier have gathered steam over the years, and recently the topic is at an all-time high with the hearings and procedures going on. One party says that it will eliminate one of the biggest problems of the healthcare industry, which is patient misidentifications. In contrast, the opposing party fears that introducing such technology would jeopardize patient privacy, which was the same logic due to which UPI was not created last time as well. So, why is it all over the news again? 

It has been a long time since the UPI was first supposed to be introduced. However, since then, a lot of healthcare experts have been supporting the creation and funding of a UPI due to the problems they face regarding the lack of accurate Unique Patient Identifier daily. They believe that a patient identifier would help most if not all of the issues they face regarding patient safety and increase it in the long run. However, nowadays, patient care has expanded beyond the physical boundaries of the hospital. Thus, they need to be identified at every point to ensure that accurate records are displayed for the patients.

Unique Patient Identifier

Patient Identifier

WHO (World Health Organization) says that patient misidentification has led to issues such as reduced patient safety via wrong treatment and medical errors, among other things. Bolstered by this as well as their personal experience, many healthcare providers are clamoring for a UPI for accurate patient identification as well as enhanced patient safety. On the other hand, the opposing party says to look at other alternatives, since the introduction of a UPI will introduce privacy risks as well. 

HIPAA required a unique patient identifier to be made by the Department of Health and Human Services to make the whole healthcare process more efficient. Sadly, it never saw the light of day- in 2009, a ban was put in place which restricted HHS to create such an identifier. 

Since then, the debate has raged on regarding patient identifiers- why it is essential and why it can be dangerous. CHIME (College of Healthcare Information Management Executives) has tirelessly worked to make sure that an effective patient identifier nationwide becomes a reality by building a case for it, citing that patient identification is a core aspect of ensuring patient safety.

Unique Patient Identifier

Medical Record

Things seemed bright for the healthcare system back in June, since it looked like Congress was finally supporting the removal of the ban for funding. However, the Senate did not move from its decision and kept the ban intact, citing the same old reason- privacy issues. Sen. Paul even is thinking of removing the patient identifier requirement from HIPAA itself. 

Where the whole healthcare system and everyone else surrounding it are debating over this topic, many health systems have already taken the initiative and are using RightPatient. It is a biometric patient identification platform that ensures accurate patient identification every time the patient opts for healthcare services. The patient records are locked with biometric data such as fingerprints or irises, so that others cannot come and claim that it is their medical record, preventing medical identity theft as well. RightPatient identifies the accurate medical records within seconds as soon as the patient uses their registered biometric data, making the patient experience faster than ever. Notable health systems like Terrebonne General Medical Center and Novant Health have deployed RightPatient. They are enjoying its benefits like accurate patient identification, enhanced patient safety, reduced medical identity theft, as well as improved revenue cycle. It also reduces denied claims, as the number of bills sent out to wrong individuals is decreased significantly. Thus, it seems to be doing all the things a useful patient identifier would do and can be a prime candidate for becoming a nationwide patient identifier. 


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