BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health: Single Patient Identifier (SPI)



The lack of an easy, centralized way to identify and link patients to their health data has resulted in the creation of numerous unrelated patient-identity numbers that overwhelm medical-records system in health care. More so, with health care organizations growing, merging, and forming affiliations, it has become increasingly important to create and use single unique codes of critical patient information called Single Patient Identifiers (SPIs). For this reason, there’s a requirement established by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to uniquely identify participants involved in the provision of health care services. In the same way, payer organizations have the responsibility of distinctively identifying and covering individuals, irrespective of how they’re identified in different provider systems.

Many current health service problems that complicate patient care and related communications can be solved when SPIs are used. Creating a system where each patient has their own SPI ensures that regardless of any physician they visit or anywhere their care team members is stationed, clinicians can easily access the information they need about the patient in an instant. This form of information sharing across teams and health systems will result in more efficient collaboration and care. It’s a given that the idea of primary care physicians or other health professionals being able to instantaneously access complete medical records of patients would improve care coordination, ensure effective patient care and ultimately reduce medical errors. Other benefits of SPI include:

  • Being a web-based, it allows for multiple users and ease of access to patient data
  • Maintains a centralized database which enables data integration and allows local systems to operate independently
  • Automatically creates a global, cross-indexing for record matching across different systems
  • Uniquely identifies patient records and flags potential duplicate records

It would certainly be wonderful to no longer have to fill out long medical history forms whenever one visits a new doctor. With SPIs, up-to-date medical records of any patient can be retrieved once the personal code is entered. Clearly, this will save patients a lot of time and frustration from repeatedly filling medical forms every time they see a specialist or new doctor. In addition, it will allow clinicians to devote more time to engaging their patients.

Despite the forgoing, some groups- particularly privacy activists aren’t in support of SPI. They argue that despite the pros and importance of SPI or centralized unique healthcare system IDs, it would tremendously encourage commercial gain through the routine collection and selling of information from medical records without patient consent. As a consequence, more patients would lose trust in the confidentiality of health systems and hide health details from their doctors, resulting in a deterioration in care.

Like any major change, the debut of SPI is certain to generate heated arguments of pros and cons between proponents and opponents respectively. However, a common ground between these groups can be reached by ensuring that SPI, an efficient system in itself, can be successfully used without the invasion of patients’ privacy.

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