October 03, 2017

Warren, Hatch, Whitehouse, Baldwin, Cassidy Request that GAO Consider Steps for Federal Agencies to Improve Patient Matching in Upcoming Report

Senators Coauthored 21st Century Cures Act Provision Requiring Study

Text of the letter available here (PDF)

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) today requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) consider a number of key issues related to improving patient matching in the U.S. health system as it begins a study required by a provision coauthored by the senators in the 21st Century Cures Act.

Correct patient matching allows providers to share patient information, and when appropriately implemented, improves the quality of health care and ensures more efficient use of resources. Due to a Congressional ban, the Department of Health and Human Services has been unable to develop a universal patient identifier system, leading to separate patient identifiers that are often proprietary and unique to specific health care systems, and resulting in patient misidentification.

"Patient misidentification can lead to inadequate, inappropriate, and costly care and, in the worst cases, patient harm or death," wrote the senators.

GAO is just beginning its work on the study, and is required to submit findings to Congress by December 2018. The senators suggested that in addition to the parameters outlined in the 21st Century Cures Act, that GAO also provide data on the prevalence of patient data mismatches and the associated costs, and that their findings include clear recommendations for steps that federal agencies could take to develop improved patient matching methods, while considering the application of a national patient matching strategy.

The senators further asked that GAO weigh the impact of patient matching efforts on patient privacy and security, as well as medical fraud, medical identity thefts, and medical reimbursement that result from mismatching.