More on health IT and Katrina, plus universal patient ID

My latest commentary on the astoundingly rapid deployment of health information technology after Hurricane Katrina appears in a new online publication called HealthDecisions. Check it out at

It’s a publication of America’s Health Insurance Plans, though I received reasonable enough assurance that it is editorially independent from AHIP policymakers to not have any qualms about contributing. To me, it’s no different than writing for Health Forum, which is a subsidiary of the American Hospital Association.

I’m in Nashville, Tenn., for the Medical Group Management Association meeting, which wraps up today, but the real news in health IT this week comes from Washington, where the Commission for Systemic Interoperability recommended yesterday that the federal government develop some sort of universal patient identifier. The 1996 HIPAA law calls for a national patient identification number, but Congress in 1999 specifically voted not to fund any work related to such an ID.

Apparently, times have changed. Recently, Cerner boss Neal Patterson came out in favor of a national patient identifier and apparently is positioning himself as an Official Thorn In The Side of Dr. David Brailer by criticizing the notion of regional health information organizations. For his part, Brailer last week stayed in line with Bush administration policy by declining to endorse a national patient identifier.

Stay tuned. This promises to get interesting.