Health IT privacy efforts to launch in April

SAN DIEGO'The privacy element of the Health and Human Services Department's health IT efforts will launch in late April with the award of contracts to study the variations in state privacy and security policies and regulations that may hinder electronic exchange of information.

The Research Triangle Institute International of Durham, N.C., which is leading HHS' privacy effort under a contract it won in October, will announce subcontracts to organizations in up to 40 states April 28.

It is hoped that states will work together to protect and share patient data, said Jodi Daniel, director of policies and research in HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

'We are looking at how to get states to work together on privacy and security,' Daniel said yesterday at the annual conference of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society in San Diego.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act provides a baseline for health information privacy and security among states. Some states have more stringent privacy laws, which could pose challenges for interoperability of electronic health records systems.

RTI International is looking at state practices and policies that affect health information exchange, said Charles Thompson, vice president of the organization. RTI established the Health Information Security and Privacy Collaboration, a partnership of industry experts and the National Governors' Association, to work with the states.

The subcontracts are designed to identify state policies and practices that may have a negative impact on data-sharing, as well as to identify and document best practices to be included in proposed national recommendations, Thompson said. Each award will be valued at up to $350,000.

RTI will release an interim report Oct. 30 and deliver its final assessment and recommendations March 30, 2007.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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