Inching Closer to a National Patient Identifier – House Passes Removal of Ban on National Patient ID

Little by little, we’re working towards a National Patient Identifier.  For those not familiar with the topic, the US government in a section of the federal budget has banned HHS from even working with the private sector to develop a national patient identifier.  However, the House of Representatives thanks to leadership from Representative Bill Foster (D-IL) and Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) have passed a bill to remove this ban.

On behalf of our patients and caregivers, Intermountain Healthcare applauds House passage of the Foster-Kelly Amendment and looks forward to a future in which patients can accurately, safely, and consistently be matched to their health data across the care continuum,” said Ryan Smith, Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Intermountain Healthcare.

The Patient ID Now coalition which includes American College of Surgeons, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), Intermountain Healthcare and Premier Healthcare Alliance, issued a press release with details on the work they did to help get this passed in the House.

While this is a good step forward, experts in this area acknowledge that there’s still a lot of work left since it has to still pass the Senate and be signed by the President.  Karen Proffitt, MHIIM, RHIA, CHP, Vice President Industry Relations/CPO at Just Associates described what’s left this way:

With its vote yesterday, the House took an important step toward eliminating a significant obstacle in the way of a nationwide patient identification strategy, agreeing to the Foster-Kelly Amendment striking Section 510 from the FY2021 Federal Budget and removing the prohibition on the use of federal funds to promulgate or adopt a national unique patient ID. But the battle is far from over. We’ve been here before, only to have the Senate fail to adopt similar Amendment language.

Our hope is that the industry’s unified call will finally be heard and the outdated ban will finally be lifted in the name of patient safety. Doing so will clear the way for HHS to evaluate a range of patient identification solutions and work with the private sector to explore potential challenges to the intractable problem of inaccurate patient matching and identification, which puts patients at risk, increases coasts and exacerbates inefficiencies—and hampers progress toward nationwide interoperability.

David Gray, Senior Manager, Government Relations & Connected Health Policy at HIMSS reiterated a similar sentiment:

It’s always going to be an uphill battle in the Senate, just as it’s been in the House for the last decade. However we were able to educate Members that the outdated ban on a UPI, which has prevented efforts to advance a national patient matching strategy, was a patient safety and public health issue. And they’ve voted to remove the ban two years in a row. The more we educate Senators and staff, the more our message will continue to resonate.

It’s worth noting that the Patient ID Now Coalition is solution agnostic, but they’re united around the effort to remove the ban that doesn’t allow the private sector to engage with HHS in order to find the best path forward.

As we’ve covered before, for example in this “Let’s Talk About a National Patient Identifier” discussion, a national patient ID isn’t the cure all when it comes to patient identification and patient matching.  However, it would be a good step forward that would solve some of the problems.  As Blair Childs, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs at Premier healthcare alliance said, “Accurately matching patients to their health information is critical to delivering safe, efficient and high-quality care during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. 

Let’s hope this bipartisan industry effort can continue to make it’s way through the legislative process.  It’s a much desired change.

This article is part of the #HealthIT100in100

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About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Great to see your name again Carl. Yes, it is encouraging news. Hopefully it will continue. We’re doing as well as anyone. I hope the same for you.

  • In the late 1990’s HOST identified the need for a unique national patient identifier as a major roadblock for interoperability. It is about time. Now we have a number of other issues to address if anyone is interested such as EHR usability requiring physicians to spend almost 6 hours daily in front of the computer. The EHR records are almost worthless as the COVID-19 trickle of data has been pitiful.

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