March 24, 2006
Volume 17, No. 6
Download a PDF of this issue
Historically, UPMC facilities have used the patient’s Social Security number as the medical record number. As a result, this number has been displayed on a variety of items, such as addressograph plates, patient wristbands, and various printed forms.
To address patient concerns regarding UPMC’s use of Social Security numbers, the health system is launching an initiative designed to limit the use of Social Security numbers.
As part of this initiative, on Monday, April 3, MediPac, one of UPMC’s clinical information systems, will begin automatically assigning a random, nine-digit medical record number to all new patients (patients who have never been seen at a UPMC facility that registers patients in MediPac). This change will affect those patients who have no existing medical records at any UPMC facility that uses MediPac. Facilities affected include UPMC Braddock, UPMC Horizon, UPMC McKeesport, UPMC Presbyterian, UPMC St. Margaret, UPMC Shadyside, UPMC South Side, and some physician offices.
“As a national leader in the development of electronic medical records, we’re acutely concerned with issues of information security and patient privacy,” says John Houston, director, Information Services Division, and privacy officer and assistant counsel, UPMC.
“To address patient concerns, UPMC formed a committee to evaluate options and implement strategies for limiting the use of Social Security numbers as patient identifiers,” adds Mr. Houston. The committee’s first goal was to address new patient medical records.
Because UPMC is required to include the patient’s Social Security number in mandatory governmental reporting, Social Security numbers still will be collected for inclusion in new patient records. However, Social Security numbers will not be used as medical record numbers for these patients.
Other UPMC clinical information systems previously addressed this issue, with good outcomes. In July 2005, a programmatic adjustment was made to the Epic practice management suite, an application used by various physician groups, to use serially assigned medical record numbers to register new patients.
According to Georgina Trunzo, director, Hospital Patient Access, the change in MediPac should be seamless for patients, physicians, and staff.'
“Because the medical record number will be generated automatically by MediPac for new patients, no changes in process are required by our staff at this time,” says Ms. Trunzo. “Staff will continue to ask patients for their Social Security numbers, but they won’t be entered into the medical record number field.”
This change will not affect Cerner's ability to search for patient records by Social Security number.
Watch Extra! for updates on this initiative.