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A national unique patient identifier faces an uncertain, bumpy road

Recent legislative action may clear the path for developing a uniform, accurate and effective way to tie data to patients, but challenges are looming.

… There’s also the question of rollout. Initially, a UPI would be added into patient records as patients engage in the healthcare system, says Susan Lucci, senior privacy/security consultant with tw-Security in Overland Park, Kan.

… How the UPI would be protected. The longstanding claim that a UPI would increase risks to a patient’s privacy and security may be less persuasive than in the past. “People in civil liberties say ‘privacy,’ but news flash – we’ve pretty easily identified now. The argument is old and not valid anymore,” says Lucci.

… The cost of implementation. The expense for the government to issue UPIs – and for providers, health plans and other stakeholders – to retool their systems to use them, would be immense. “Healthcare is already stretched out to the max,” says Lucci. A 2008 Rand study estimated it would cost $1.5 billion to $11.1 billion to issue UPIs, and those figures presumably have not decreased. However, Rand also found that UPIs had the potential efficiency savings of $77 billion a year at the 90 percent level of adoption.


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