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Achieve interoperability while protecting patient privacy

by Michael Campana
It's the best of both worlds.

Have you ever felt like you had to choose between increasing interoperability or protecting patient privacy? Recent findings show that you may be able to achieve both successfully.

In a memorandum1 to the U.S. Congress, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) called on U.S. lawmakers to drop a Federal prohibition against unique patient identifiers. CHIME’s recommendation is actually just one of several the group recently made to help improve the exchange of health information and electronic health records (EHR). Other recommendations included calling for a unified strategy for hospitals and doctors to report quality measures, and for the federal government to incentivize the use of standards for health IT interoperability and exchange of digital information.

If all providers are able to put in place a system that lets them confidently identify patients regardless of location or vendor, then true interoperability can flourish.

But, it’s the recommendation in the memorandum calling for an end to the Federal ban against national patient identifiers that may have the greatest impact on organizations trying to achieve interoperability, should the ban go through.

So, what exactly does that mean? And what implications could it have for healthcare organizations?

For starters, the continual challenge for providers to be able to match patient identity across the care continuum is not only something that can cause internal headaches, but it also is a major hurdle standing in the way of providers looking to achieve interoperability.

As more and more providers begin sharing patient information across systems, the risk of data falling into the wrong hands increases. While this can be a scary thought, there are steps that providers can take towards securing patient information to make sure this doesn’t happen. And, if all providers are able to put in place a system that lets them confidently identify patients regardless of location or vendor, then true interoperability can flourish.

Curious as to what steps your organization can take to achieve interoperability while protecting patient privacy? Start by taking into consideration the following questions:

1. Do you have technology in place that can accurately capture, manage and transform sensitive patient information?

2. Are there areas within your data processing where information might be getting lost or mistranslated?


3. Are you able to securely share electronic information throughout your hospital and with other providers?

The fact is that when you capture, manage and transform data, including patient healthcare information, with the right tools and technologies, you can help your organization meet interoperability goals and safely manage patient healthcare data.


The two goals no longer have to be mutually exclusive. And while a decision has not yet been made in terms of dropping the prohibition against unique patient identifiers, organizations should continue prepping to be as secure as possible as they get closer to achieving interoperability.

Accelerate your adoption of healthcare interoperability without sacrificing patient data security

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Michael Campana
Michael Campana joined Ricoh in 2012 as Senior Manager of Healthcare Marketing. He brings 27 years of experience to the role to lead the market positioning and strategy for Ricoh’s healthcare industry vertical in the Americas. Campana began his career in the healthcare industry upon graduating from the University of South Florida. He has worked for a number of healthcare organizations, including most recently Siemens Medical Solutions Health Services.
1 "Health Information Technology Policy Recommendations" [Memorandum addressed to the U.S. Congress]. College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), July 01, 2015.