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The Framework for Implementing a National Patient Identifier

By Karen Proffitt, Vice President of Data Integrity Solutions, MHIIM, RHIA, CHP

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the sense of urgency around solving the long-standing problem of patient misidentification. The lack of standards for connecting patients with their data, in particular, hampered the nation’s attempts at a coordinated response to the pandemic — including the nationwide roll out of vaccination programs.

The absence of a national patient identifier continues putting people at risk, even as the pandemic begins to wane, in some cases resulting in vaccination sites being denied additional vaccines because receipt of first doses were not documented in the correct patient records. It is also expensive. For some hospitals and health systems, resolving duplicates within a single system created by patients attempting to self-register for vaccinations cost as much as $12,000 per day.

The urgency for a resolution ultimately drove Patient ID Now to release its Framework for a National Strategy on Patient Identity. It is the latest action taken by the coalition of healthcare organizations, patient groups, physicians, providers, health information professionals and health IT companies — including Just Associates — to advance a nationwide strategy to address patient identification. Within this framework, Patient ID Now advocates for a collaboration between the federal government, private sector and state, local, tribal, and territorial public health authorities to create and implement a national strategy centered around patient identification that protects patient safety and privacy. The proposed strategy should:

  • Provide guidance and standards on the calculation of error rates across health IT systems and organizations and identify minimum acceptable levels of accuracy.
  • Leverage public and private sector resources to address patient privacy, including materials from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the principles of Self-Sovereign Identity, and Privacy by Design.
  • Define the minimum standardized data set needed for patient identification and matching.


The framework also offers perspectives on the foundation upon which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could build a national strategy that also ensures accurate patient identification. This includes such elements as accurate identification and match rates, privacy, security, standardization, interoperability, data quality, and health equity and inclusion.

Advancing these policies won’t just improve our pandemic response and overall public safety. It will also help remove obstacles to care coordination and nationwide interoperability. Just as importantly, it will save the healthcare industry millions of dollars in costs associated with the identification and eradication of duplicate records.

Despite action underway on several fronts, patient misidentification remains a serious issue. Through the creation and release of this framework, Patient ID Now is helping the industry, public health authorities and regulatory agencies advance toward a system that accurately connects patients with their correct data.