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Health Care Industry Leaders Agree, Electronic Health Records are Coming, Says URAC
Date:4/28/2009

HIMSS Conference Raises Questions About Consumer Security, Privacy

WASHINGTON, April 28 /PRNewswire/ -- URAC, the leading health care accreditation and education organization, announced today the recent Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference raised important questions about consumer privacy and security around electronic health records (EHR).

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"There is no doubt that electronic health records are coming. The question is whether or not consumers' privacy is a key issue or an afterthought," said Alan P. Spielman, President and CEO of URAC. "A lot of forces are driving the push for EHR. However, it is important that standards go hand-in-hand with policy so that it doesn't become the Wild West with every vendor and health care provider using different terms."

The rules set by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) are integral to the widespread adoption of EHR. However, the rules can be confusing for consumers and providers. URAC was the first organization to offer HIPAA Privacy Accreditation. The organization now offers comprehensive standards for both HIPAA Privacy and HIPAA Security accreditation. These standards are applicable to all personal health information storage formats and exchanges claims transactions and are designed for many different types of health care organizations including both Covered Entities (CE) and Business Associates (BA). They also require an ongoing compliance program that identifies, tracks and makes the necessary changes in response to a federal or state regulatory change.

"HIPAA compliance is one of the great challenges facing health care organizations," said Christine Leyden, RN, MSN senior vice president, and chief accreditation officer for URAC. "The Obama Administration's push for EHR is a positive step for patient safety efforts, but may further complicate HIPAA compliance standards. We have to ensure that clear standards for electronic health records are in place so that consumers' most confidential information is kept secure before EHRs are widely adopted. Trying to set standards once programs have been rolled out may contribute to non-compliance and resistance by both consumers and health care providers to use EHRs."

To date more than 22 companies have received or are in process for URAC HIPAA accreditation including military contractors, government contractors, and health care providers such as Humana Military Healthcare Services, Health Net Federal Services, AMERIGROUP Corporation, Shared Health, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana.

"President Obama's recent announcement that he wants to make electronic records a cornerstone of his national health care reform will likely accelerate the development of EHR systems," said Mr. Spielman. "While this push creates huge opportunities to take bold steps in improving the U.S. health care system, we need to move forward carefully so that consumer privacy is not overlooked."

URAC highlighted its HIPAA accreditation programs at the recent HIMSS conference in Chicago. To learn more about the suite of products, visit URAC at www.urac.org

About URAC

URAC, an independent, nonprofit organization, is well-known as a leader in promoting health care quality through its accreditation and education programs. URAC offers a wide range of quality benchmarking programs and services that keep pace with the rapid changes in the health care system, and provide a symbol of excellence for organizations to validate their commitment to quality and accountability. Through its broad-based governance structure and an inclusive standards development process, URAC ensures that all stakeholders are represented in establishing meaningful quality measures for the entire health care industry. For more information, visit www.urac.org.


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