TMA Testimony by Bernard (Buddy) T. Swift Jr., MD
Senate Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security
Senate Bill 166
Feb. 25, 2013
Good afternoon, Chair Estes, and members of the committee. I’m Dr. Buddy Swift, an occupational medicine specialist in San Antonio, and chair of the Texas Medical Association’s (TMA’s) Council on Socioeconomics. I’m also the owner of the Texas MedClinic, a chain of 14 urgent care and occupational medical clinics in San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Austin. Today I’m here to testify in support of Senate Bill 166, on behalf of TMA, representing 47,000 physicians and medical students.
SB 166 is a win-win for Texas’ patients and the physicians who care for them. If passed, this legislation will reduce red tape, increase efficiency, and improve the accuracy of patient information entered into the patient’s medical record.
For the past decade, federal and state governments have pumped millions of dollars into health information technology. However, when patients check in at my office, they receive a ream of paper to fill out by hand. Much of this information already exists on the black strip on the back of the patients Texas driver license. Instead of having patients spend 10 minutes filling out paperwork, and not always with the best penmanship, my staff could simply swipe their driver license.
With one swipe, the patient’s pertinent information could populate his or her medical record instantly and accurately. One swipe could save at least 60 seconds of staff time per patient registration. Multiply that by the 400,000 patients seen annually in the 14 Texas MedClinics, and you can do the math on what that means as far as enhancing productivity. And that's just in our facilities. If we expand that to the entire state, you can see the significant efficiencies SB 166 can achieve.
State law passed in 2007 allowed hospitals to use the Texas driver license electronic strip to admit patients into their facilities. That legislation has been successful for hospitals and their patients. Pharmacies also swipe patients’ driver licenses to help enforce certain state laws that aim to prevent drug diversion and tobacco sales to minors.
Physician practices could benefit from the additional risk-management applications to cut down on fraud and related costs, particularly urgent care clinics like mine, which see patients on an episodic basis.
It’s important to note that patient health information is protected. Strong federal and state laws apply to individual patient information and govern physicians and health care providers who come in contact with that information. Privacy concerns arose at the time the hospital-related law passed. Physician practices and clinics already verbally collect and store the same personal information contained on the front of the driver licenses. The magnetic stripe contains no more information than that presented on the front of the card, and existing law gives patients the right to opt out if they prefer not to have it swiped.
This legislation is not a mandate nor does it require patients to check in using their driver license. It only provides Texas patients with the opportunity to speed up their check-in process and ensure their information is accurate.
Again, this is a win-win for everyone concerned. I ask that you please support SB 166. Thank you.
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