IT alliance urges decision on network's patient identification

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The National Alliance for Health Information Technology wants policymakers to decide how to identify patients in the planned nationwide health information network.

There are two viable options for identifying particular medical records: personal identification numbers and computer-based algorithms. Personal identification numbers are used in countries that have already built nationwide health information networks. Algorithms identify individual patients by sorting through names, dates of birth, addresses, telephone numbers and other demographic information.

Members of the alliance, a Chicago-based partnership whose membership is made up of senior executives from all sectors of the healthcare and technology industries, believe the nation must decide on ways of identifying patients for the electronic medical record before work on the network can proceed, according to Rod Piechowski, the group's vice president for technology leadership.