The health ID piranhas attack

Without a unique database identifier for each person integrated electronic medical records are impossible.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

I made a stupid mistake posting a while ago. I used the headline above rather than one on IT.

But on reflection ID, as in identification, is something we need to talk about in discussing health IT.

Consider how easy it is for someone to rob you from distance today. A credit card number, a social security number, and you're in.

Everyone but you gets rich off this game. The thieves, the security outfits, the insurers,  the credit agencies. And you're usually made whole.  

Despite this reality we can't get agreement on a uniform identifier. Anyone who brings up the subject gets immediate pushback on grounds of privacy, or government intrusion, or the mark of the beast. Every proposed solution is immediately fisked to death.

Now imagine it's your health, not your money on the line.

Without a unique database identifier for each person integrated electronic medical records are impossible. Most people are not like me -- their names are not unique.

That identifier must be protected, somehow. We protect our credit card numbers with PINs and special numbers on the back -- I call mine the Powerball number. How is all that working for you?

Obviously whatever protects your health records would have to be better than that. Wouldn't it?

Once records are combined and put online in your Personal Health Record, the state loses interest. But it's clear from e-mails and talkbacks here that you don't.

Biometric markers are one route to protection, but which will we use? Access requires that a copy of each marker be maintained by anyone holding your database record, or a universally-accessible third party. Will you trust a single marker and a single system?

I guarantee a lot of vendors are going to be offering their best arguments, offering interviews and demos, claiming solutions to these problems. But as each approaches acceptance I can also guarantee opponents will all chew them up, in hopes of avoiding any national ID system.

Identification is more than a technical problem, although it is that. It is more than a business problem, although it is that too. Identification is mainly a political problem, a difficult one. And it needs to be addressed.

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