For years, healthcare facilities and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have struggled to identify patients and match them to previous medical records accurately. This has posed some issues over the years as patients have gotten medications the patient should not get. In some of these instances, it was a simple clerical issue of associating a patient with the incorrect previous medical record.

One solution that has been discussed for years is to give every patient a federal medical record number (MRN). Like most policy going through the U.S. legislative process, there is no consensus on whether this is a good idea or not. There are privacy risks with this approach, and the U.S. government has not proven to be experts in suppressing information from hackers.

One step that Medicare is taking is to issue all members a new ID card with a unique ID number. Currently, Medicare cards have the patient’s social security number (SSN) as the member ID (there are times when it would be a spouse’s SSN instead, but those are relatively rare.). This move by CMS is an excellent step towards protecting a patients identity, but it does not address the core issue of misidentification of patients being a severe safety issue.

That is why it is imperative you always have a government photo identification when you go to the ER. This helps to ensure you get the best treatment based on an accurate history and safety from lab results or medication administration errors.

Your advocate,

Erik Wikman