Patient authentication standard could win patients' trust

The federal government should play a larger role in ensuring that electronic health records protect patients' data, because gaining patients' trust will be a key factor in gaining public support for health IT, according to the federally appointed Commission for System Interoperability.

In a recent report, Ending the Document Game: Connecting and Transforming Your Healthcare through Information Technology, the commission said the federal government should develop a nationwide patient authentication standard to provide privacy and security for individuals' health data.

'Whatever the authentication system, it should be the patient's choice to opt in or opt out of the system,' said Martin Harris, a commission member and CIO of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland.

'At some point, just like with your bank or credit card, you must be identified because you can't take the risk of a patient with the wrong record,' Harris said.

Harris' Cleveland Clinic has 6 million electronic records and has gone through the standard authentication process to authenticate users.

The technology is a sorting algorithm, which takes in subrecords from any system, identifies five or six factors and compares that with all other records in the database to determine a match.

In the report, the commission recommended initial health IT uses and standards to guide the public-private American Health Information Community, which HHS formed to gain broad agreement on how to exchange patient data.

'AHIC should focus on authentication early and build a timeline,' Harris said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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