Here’s an interesting opinion piece by John Halamka, titled “Health Care Needs a DNS for Patients” available from Computerworld.com.
Basically, Halamka argues that there should be a better way of accessing and locating patient information that is stored in physician offices, hospital records, patients homes, and wherever else patient information is stored. He argues that instead of a patient number of unique identifier, health professionals (I assume he means only health professionals) should be able to type in someone’s name and then voila! the information should appear collected from all of its various sources.
Okay, I think the idea is an interesting one, but practically speaking neither realistic nor feasible. For one, how are we to ensure that people with the same name will not have their information accessed by unknowing health professionals (with potential opportunities to mis-diagnose based on using the wrong data)? Even here in Canada, trying to create a unique identifier is posing to be a significant challenge. In my limited exposure to the work being done in Ontario, I learned that trying to create a single identifier (much like a name) is one freaking complicated task, let alone doing this on a national scale.
Finally, how would we resolve the issue of people with the same name? I mean, if we’re supposed to have a DNS entry for each person, we can’t all have “Hans Oh”, can we, right? The idea is interesting. Maybe we need to start brainstorming for more ideas. In the US, I think they have bigger problems than trying to create a unique patient identifier.