A patient-specific DNS?

by Hans on 2005/06/02

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.

{ 2 comments }

Greg Smith June 5, 2005 at 2:27 pm

John’s suggestion about a Patient DNS caught my review as well at My Genomic ID. After reading your take I’m thinking that maybe a legitimate global directory for patient or even people lookup may be the best way to fight identity fraud. My name is Greg Smith and I have found that my protection from ID fraud is because of my common name. But all kinds of almost correct references exist in cyberspace on me. Now I am thinking that a partially user edited DNS type entry might finally allow us to be able to confirm who we are.

Maybe it is time to reverse our thinking about ID protection to one of ID confirmation.

Hans June 5, 2005 at 6:12 pm

Thanks for the comment and feedback. From what I know, identity “confirmation” is usually the “last step” in trying to set-up a secure system. I’ve had an opportunity to be privy to some of the work that’s being done here in Ontario in trying to create a provincial public key infrastructure and trying to manage everything. Guess what? The problem isn’t so much the technology, but actually in the registration and confirmation of who you say you are.

I’d like to hear more about your idea of ID confirmation and how it could work.

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