The Voluntary Universal Health Identification Project

Improving Patient Safety While Protecting Patient Privacy

Doctor and patient

In today’s health care system, not having the ability to access full, accurate information about patients at the point of care can be deadly.

However, discussions on how to link patients with their personal health information give rise to serious questions about patient privacy and confidentiality.

In 2011, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) funded the Voluntary Universal Health Identification (VUHID) Project to test a system of voluntary patient identification associated with electronic health records to improve outcomes and reduce costs. Lead investigators of the project applied this voluntary approach because that way the decision to obtain a unique ID was up to the patient, and would hopefully increase the number of patients who would inevitably join. Unfortunately the VUHID project was never fully implemented for an array of reasons, but important lessons were learned along the way on how best to build a unique patient ID system in the future, including the need for strong partnerships and a robust health IT network.