The digital identity of patients will come to the fore as the nationwide health information network (NwHIN) takes practical steps to support care coordination, patient engagement and quality transparency. These changes in health care delivery are the essential foundation for cost containment and arguably the essence of Meaningful Use.
Stage 2, as proposed, is a giant step toward care coordination and patient engagement. The focus on Direct and meeting the patient and doctor where they are – on the Internet – rather than where they might be (HIEs and PHRs) is both practical and empowering. But, what does “the patient” mean in a digital, networked system where patient identity is not always based on face-to-face encounters and snail-mail?
I doubt that anyone is arguing for biometric patient passports as a prerequisite for medical consultation.
The practical aspects of identifying the patient online can be seen in light of the Stage 2 mandate for Direct messaging across institutions and with the patient. Let’s imagine a paperless, NwHIN, version of today’s Release Of Information (ROI) request that enables one doctor to send records to an unaffiliated doctor under HIPAA and with informed patient consent.