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HCA and Qualis Health Collaborate on Patient Privacy and Security Project; Project Focus Will Be on Security of Interoperable Patient Health Information Networks
[June 12, 2006]

HCA and Qualis Health Collaborate on Patient Privacy and Security Project; Project Focus Will Be on Security of Interoperable Patient Health Information Networks

SEATTLE --(Business Wire)-- June 12, 2006 -- The Office of Governor Chris Gregoire and the Washington Health Care Authority (HCA) announced that Washington state has been awarded a federal contract to determine if its business practices and security and privacy policy support a system that allows patients and medical practices to exchange patient health records electronically.

To facilitate an open, public dialog about an interoperable health information infrastructure and recommend solutions instrumental in the design of a standardized system, the Governor's Office designated Qualis Health, a Seattle-based healthcare Quality Improvement Organization, to serve as the state's lead on the Health Information Privacy and Security Collaboration (HISPC).

HISPC is a nationwide program funded by the Research Triangle Institute (RTI), under contract with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

"The Governor made it clear that expanding the use of health information technology is a critical component in efforts to control costs through increased efficiencies," said Steve Hill, administrator with the Health Care Authority. "Equally critical is an assurance to our citizens that such enhancements will not jeopardize their privacy or security."

In addition to controlling costs and improving efficiencies, interoperable health information technology systems can improve the quality of patient care and healthcare delivery. Despite the benefit to patients and providers alike, government agencies recognize that the widespread adoption of electronic medical records hinges on consumer confidence that patient privacy and security concerns have been addressed.

"Technology is increasingly playing a significant role in improving the healthcare system as a whole and patient care in particular," said Jonathan Sugarman, MD, MPH, president and CEO of Qualis Health. "The HISPC initiative offers the state of Washington a promising opportunity to engage the experts, understand the barriers that exist and influence the future of secure health information exchange systems."

Qualis Health, a private nonprofit Quality Improvement Organization was appointed based on its relationships with key Washington information technology stakeholders and the organization's experience managing health technology initiatives such as DOQ-IT (Doctor's Office Quality - Information Technology). DOQ-IT is a federal government funded program designed to help physician practices adopt electronic health records.

The project requires that Qualis Health assemble "working groups" consisting of experts in health information exchange business practices and related legal requirements in privacy and security policies. These volunteer groups will identify variations in state laws and business practices and will collaborate with Qualis Health in identifying best practice solutions that protect privacy and security of health information and promote interoperable health information exchange. For additional information regarding participation in the working groups, or about the HISPC project, contact Greg Baumgardner of Qualis Health at 206-364-9700, ext. 2263.

The Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International, Inc., a private nonprofit corporation that supports innovations in healthcare internationally, recently announced that public and private entities in 22 states signed agreements to examine state laws and security practices related to the exchange of patient health information. RTI is collaborating with the National Governors Association to oversee the project.

About the Health Care Authority

The Washington State Health Care Authority is a cabinet level agency that administers health programs and provides access to high-quality health care for more than 500,000 Washington residents, including 316,000 state and local government employees and 128,000 enrollees in Basic Health, a state-subsidized program for low-income families. HCA's mission is to make affordable health care accessible by delivering the best value in health care to all enrollees through efficient procurement strategies and cost-effective health-care delivery systems.

About Qualis Health

Qualis Health is dedicated to improving the quality of healthcare delivery and health outcomes for individuals and populations across the nation. In operation since 1974, the non-profit, healthcare quality improvement organization (QIO) is headquartered in Seattle, Washington and has offices in Alaska, Idaho and California.

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