Saturday, March 21, 2009

Swipe-It Medical Cards

Despite the fact that everything has changed in life with electronics, the way patients and insurance interact with providers remains back in the 1950s.

There is a effort being pushed for "swipe-it" ID cards that would be standardized no matter what health insurance or Medicare coverage a patient has. Here is how it would work:

The "Swipe-it" card would look like a credit card with an electronic stripe on the back. One swipe and the doctor or pharmacist or hospital would have your name, dependents, address and phone number. But even more, it would identify your exact insurance plan, your co-pay or deductible and what amount has been fulfilled for the year. It could link to a personal health record with your medications, allergies, medical conditions and other important information.

If I can go anywhere in the world and use (or be denied because I am over my limit) a credit card, this should be easy.

The savings would be profound. It is estimated that $1 billion is spent in wasted work by resubmitting rejected claims because the wrong information was transmitted. Current ID cards are not standard and can be on paper that dog ears or on colored plastic that does not clearly photocopy. Each insurer (United, Anthem Blue Cross, Cigna) can have hundreds of different plans and products, each with different coverage requirements, that are not reflected on the ID card.

We physicians have long thought that the confusion engendered by the Insurers is not a mistake but is a well oiled scheme for delaying and denying claims. It is usually up to the provider to track down and resubmit claims and this is one of the key reasons primary care has died. For small $$ office visit, the delays and denials of payment have killed the practice. It is the patient (and our Nation) who have ultimately suffered.

Swipe -it cards are about 20 years overdue. Perhaps health care reform will bring some common sense to this sick industry.


ERP said...

I am sure lots of people won't want all that info on a card they could lose. But yeah, it is a great idea otherwise.

Knitted_in_the_Womb said...

The layers of administration that are added to our health care by having insurance companies in the middle of everything is insane. I'd guess that more time is spent administrating payment of my routine medical care than is actually spent providing that care to me.

I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it...I think that Americans need to ditch the idea of having health insurance pay for routine medical care! Health insurance should just be for catastrophic expenses, routine expenses should be handled just the way routine car care expenses are handled--the customer directly pays the provider without involving the insurance company.

But you say...the insurance companies have a good gig going, and they aren't going to give it up easily!

Anonymous said...

I typed up my name, primary care dr name and phone, allergies (penicillin & etc.), daily meds and emergency contacts. I printed it several times until I got the formatting right so that the info would be the same size as a credit card.

Took it to a store that makes copies and got it laminated. Cut it down to credit card size and carry it in my wallet.

Also I have I.C.E. entries in my cell phone ("in case of emergency"). I understand that paramedics and Er personnel are familiar with the acronym ICE so I could just hand them the cell phone (if conscious) and have them make the calls. The laminated card is for a situation in which I am not able to answer questions of course.

MGMA said...

You make a great point. Earlier this year MGMA started a campaign to push the industry toward standardized IDs to solve this very problem. If you or other physicians are interested in pledging your support, we’d love to have you!

Web content writer/editor
Medical Group Management Association

Kim said...

We use a medical card reader in our practice and it makes such a difference, we attach the patients scanned image to their file and the OCR lets us post the relevant fields to our patient management system - its a huge time saver

Anonymous said...

Toni, My husband I have been discussing a new business venture that started out to create medical and emergency swipe cards so when people are in accidents the EMS, Police, Fireman, Hospital whoever could have card readers and know immediately about that person medical history and from there we could include in phase two insurance and whatever else would make sense. We are going to have a brainstorming session soon about this would you like to participate and provide the voice of the medical profession. We have the capital for the project but need industy experience. Please email me at

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kamagra said...

I think that the idea is excellent, but I have to agree with ERP, I wouldn't like to have all my info in a single card, precisely I can lose it.

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Anonymous said...

How much is the startup cost to get one of these cards up and running?

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