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Identity crisis: ID matching and restricting the spread of COVID-19

There’s an identity matching challenge that’s existed in healthcare ever since the move to electronic medical records began, and the urgency to remedy it has been increased by the speed and danger posed by COVID-19. How do you identify a patient with limited information? How do you know what medical record or lab test to associate with a patient? Capturing complete or accurate patient demographic information is difficult and can be impacted by many factors far less chaotic than a pandemic. By any measure, under normal circumstances, hospital registration takes place in a fast-paced environment.

“Normal” changed abruptly for the United States in March and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) recognized the need to enable innovations that will help keep pace with the virus’ relentless pace. OCR announced in early April that it would exercise its enforcement discretion and not impose penalties against covered health care providers or their business associates for uses and disclosures of protected health information by business associates for public health and health oversight activities during the Covid-19 nationwide public health emergency.

The COVID-19 Identity Challenge

Pop-up and parking lot testing sites provide little opportunity for healthcare staff to follow typical patient intake processes or access the technology and tools used in their hospitals and medical offices for registration. Information is gathered with everything from pen and paper to tablet devices; however, these methods are challenged to collect a patient’s information while maintaining social distancing requirements. This often results in incomplete or inaccurate patient information, making patient follow-up near impossible – not knowing who to contact or where to contact them.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to grow and public health officials at the federal, state, county, and local level have an urgent need to understand and describe how the virus is spreading, and effectively support impacted individuals. In accordance with OCR’s announcement, Experian Health will provide individuals who meet the public health authority definition free access to certain features of its Universal Identity Manager (UIM) product to assist with filling in missing patient demographics.

Any access to UIM services (and the PHI therein) is limited only to public health authorities and only until the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services declares the public health emergency no longer exists or upon the expiration date of the public health emergency1. For additional information on the UIM, please visit our website. This is a step that Experian Health is proud to take, playing our part in combatting the outbreak of Covid-19 and expediting the country’s path to recovery.

1. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 45 CFR Parts 160 and 164 Notification of Enforcement Discretion under HIPAA to Allow Uses and Disclosures of Protected Health Information by Business Associates for Public Health and Health Oversight Activities in Response to COVID-19 https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/notification-enforcement-discretion-hipaa.pdf