Since the HITECH Act started requiring health care providers to use electronic health records, challenges have arisen with assigning unique identifiers to patients. Without a standard system to identify patients, the sharing of electronic records among medical offices and hospitals in Pennsylvania does not always succeed. Patients might get matched with the wrong records. This could lead to lost diagnoses, wrong-site surgeries or inaccurate medication orders.

This issue prompted a group of industry stakeholders, including the American Medical Association and American Health Information Management Association, to write a letter to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations. The letter urged the committees to direct the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a standard approach for making unique health identifiers for people.

Standardization of patient identities could eliminate mismatches when organizations share and use electronic health records. Widespread problems, especially duplicate records, have resulted from the lack of standard patient identifiers. According to an April 2018 Black Book survey, disorganization caused by duplicate patient records costs a hospital emergency room an extra $800 per visit. A full third of denied insurance claims result from inaccuracies within patient data.

Although technical issues might impede a medical provider’s ability to organize electronic health records, health care professionals and organizations still have the responsibility to keep accurate records. A patient who suffers harm because of a diagnostic failure or inappropriate medical treatment might be the victim of medical negligence. The person could speak with an attorney to learn if a medical malpractice lawsuit might be an appropriate step. An investigation led by an attorney might reveal evidence that the medical provider failed to meet accepted standards of care. After filing court papers, an attorney could open negotiations for a settlement with an insurer or prepare the case for trial.