RAND study calls for Health ID numbers

The study rejects using Social Security numbers due to the risk of identity theft. It suggests fears can be further reduced if the initial system is strictly opt-in.

RAND logoThose who consider identifiers like Social Security numbers "the mark of the beast" are not going to be happy with this.

A new RAND Corp. study advocates spending $11 billion to give everyone in the U.S. a "personal health ID number" so their health records can be tracked through disparate systems. It insists the investment would come back many-fold.

The RAND monograph, available here, is backed by such powerful vendors as Cerner, CPSI, Intel, IBM, Microsoft, MISYS, Oracle and Siemens.

RAND is best known for its studies of national security issues, and its present CEO, James Thomson, is a national security expert.

Current health care databases use statistical matching to things like your Social Security Number, name, address, or a number created for your record by your health care provider.

This returns incomplete records up to 8% of the time, the study concludes, and also exposes patients to privacy risks because other folks' data can come up in the search.

The study says concerns over privacy and security can be covered through "the creation and enforcement of laws that severely punish those who misuse information retrieved with a health ID number" and such systems would be easier to secure than those based on statistical matching.

The study rejects using Social Security numbers due to the risk of identity theft. It suggests fears can be further reduced if the initial system is strictly opt-in.

New identifiers could include check codes that let the numbers be screened for input errors, further enhancing accuracy.

So, computer professionals, are you really ready to having your lives reduced to magnetic ink?

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