Federal Workgroup Releases Guidelines for Verifying Patient Identities

By M.L. Baker  |  Posted 11-15-2006

A federal workgroup studying privacy issues in health information technology on Nov. 15 released a preliminary set of recommendations for how health care providers and others should verify patients' identity before transmitting medical information electronically to a patient. Though narrow in scope, the guidelines are expected to pave the way for broader policy recommendations.

The recommendations, which were drafted by the Confidentiality, Privacy & Security Workgroup of the American Health Information Community, or AHIC, say that health data should be considered sensitive if exchanged through secure messaging, or accessed through doctor-controlled EHRs (electronic health records) or patient-controlled electronic PHRs (personal health records). This designation means the information is protected under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

For more on a related topic, see Kaiser EHR System Is Stalled, Employee Says

In addition, EHR systems should support "identify proofing" of patients to get a stamp of approval from the CCHIT (Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology).

According to AHIC, the recommendations will foster electronic messaging between patients and clinicians when appropriate, and also supply targeted populations with PHRs complete with a patients' individual health information. This information could be provided by a health provider, insurer, or other entity. The recommendations also allow for authorized parties to view patients' laboratory results electronically.

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