AHIMA17: New ID standards needed for newborns to enhance interoperability

Identifying a patient normally means going by their Social Security number—but what if that patient is a newborn who doesn’t have one yet? The Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) laid out its suggested solution at a presentation at the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) conference in Los Angeles.

A national patient identifier would be a solution, according to CHA. In the absence of such a standard, however, hospitals usually give newborns temporary names as parents decide on a legal name, which may not be recorded in the baby’s record before the family heads home. No consistent, industry-wide standard exists, creating difficulties with interoperability.

“Hospitals and healthcare systems identify newborns in different ways, which can result in inconsistent health records,” Katherine Lusk, MHSM chief HIM and exchange officer at Children’s Health in Dallas said at the conference. “The solution lies in the creation of pediatric patient naming standards.”

They proposed all children’s hospitals and health systems follow these standards:

  • Last name of newborn = Mother’s last name
  • First name = Boy or Girl
  • Middle name = Mother’s first name

For multiple births, CHA said confusion can continue after the newborns are given Social Security Numbers, as their numbers will be sequential. Its naming standard would include 1, 2, 3 or A, B, C after the first name for twins, triplets and other multiple births.

Beyond improvements to patient safety, a consistent standard could also save facilities time and money, as fewer mistakes will be made based on misidentifying a newborn.

“As accurate patient identification continues to be a key area of focus for AHIMA, it is inspiring to see the CHA emphasizing the importance of standards for pediatric patients,” AHIMA’s interim CEO, Pamela Lane, MS, said in a statement. “As health information management professionals continue to advance a national standard, the quality of care we provide to these patients will demonstrate our goal.”