MGMA wants standard patient IDs within a year

As promised at its annual meeting back in October, the Medical Group Management Association on Monday introduced a plan to standardize patient ID cards—on a very aggressive timeline.

The program, called SwipeIT, is an effort to convince health plans—Medicare included—as well as vendors and care providers to create standardized, machine-readable IDs by the beginning of 2010. Here is a sample.

MGMA estimates that this plan could reduce administrative waste by $1 billion a year. Magnetic-stripe cards following standards set by the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange would cost 50 cents each to replace the more than 100 million health insurance cards currently in circulation. In other words, a $50 million investment would realize $1 billion in annual savings.

A big question is whether some might see this as a move toward a national patient ID number, even though that is not what MGMA is proposing. The perception alone might cause some to balk. And then there’s the tricky issue of achieving consensus on something—anything at all—in healthcare administration.