October 12, 2005
RTI International to Support National Health Information Security and Privacy Collaboration (HISPC)
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. -- RTI International has been awarded a contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to work with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to identify best practices and develop solutions to overcome variances in laws and business practices that prevent the nationwide sharing of electronic health information.
Developing these solutions is an integral part of efforts to develop the National Health Information Network, a system in which electronic health records would be shared among health care providers nationwide to enhance health care quality.
Establishing the network represents a critical shift in the nation's health care system that is aimed at increasing the quality and accuracy of medical diagnoses, treatments and prescriptions while reducing health care costs.
"Technical feasibility is just the beginning of achieving interoperable health records and realizing the potential of health IT," said Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., AHRQ director. "We must also ensure the privacy and security of health records and at the same time address the many differing privacy and security requirements that exist from state to state and from business to business. The starting point is this contract, which will develop solutions to the varying requirements in state laws and business practices. Then we will need to work together to build a coherent system enabling safe, secure and legal transfer of records throughout the nation."
Under the terms of the 18-month contract, worth $11.5 million, RTI will form the Health Information Security and Privacy Collaboration (HISPC). This new partnership will consist of a multidisciplinary team of experts ranging from privacy and security law and health care management, as well as the National Governors Association. This team also will consist of approximately 40 states or territorial governments who will help assess and develop plans to address variations in organization-level business policies and state laws that affect privacy and security practices that may pose challenges to interoperable health information exchange.
Regulations promulgated pursuant to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) established baseline health care privacy requirements for protected health information and established security requirements for electronically protected health information. Many states have adopted policies that go beyond HIPAA. The manner in which hospitals, physicians and other health care organizations implement required security and privacy policies varies and is tailored to meet the individual organizations' needs. These variations in policies present challenges for widespread electronic health information exchange.
"We are very pleased to support this important initiative by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to improve the delivery of health care for all Americans," said Chuck Thompson, vice president of RTI's Federal Healthcare Optimization and Strategic Solutions. "We look forward to working closely with state governments, the National Governors Association and the many other stakeholders involved in this national effort."
Project team members will work closely with the AHRQ project officer, Dr. Scott Young, and the ONC project officer, Jodi Daniel, to identify best practices and to develop solutions to laws and business practices that impede health information exchange.
The contract is one of four key components of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) health information technology plan for achieving nationwide health care data exchange. The other components include:
- A project to harmonize the health care and technology standards used in health information interchange to address gaps and conflicts in current standards.
- A project to set forth certification criteria for functionality and interoperability criteria of the many and various electronic health care record products and technologies currently available on the market, whose complexity currently makes adoption of any single product risky for many physicians, especially for small and rural providers.
- A project to develop and evaluate prototypes for the network architecture to assess the feasibility of developing an NHIN prototype.
Work resulting from each of these projects, including considerable coordination among the contractors involved in these projects, will be used by HHS to develop and refine the business case for establishing the network.
"These contracts are a significant milestone in a broader strategy to spur technical innovation for nationwide sharing of health information and adoption of electronic health records," said David Brailer, M.D., Ph.D., national coordinator for Health Information Technology. "This work will set the stage for an Internet-based architecture that will allow secure, timely and accurate exchange of health information among patients, clinicians and other authorized health care entities."
About the National Governors Association
The National Governors Association (NGA), a bipartisan organization of the nation's governors, promotes visionary state leadership, shares best practices and speaks with a unified voice on national policy. Serving as the collective voice of the nation's governors in Washington, DC, the NGA is one of the nation's most respected public policy organizations. NGA provides governors and their senior staff members with services that range from representing states on Capitol Hill and before the Administration on key federal issues to developing policy reports on innovative state programs and hosting networking seminars for state government executive branch officials. For more information, visit the NGA Web site at www.nga.org.