NU Online News Service, Oct. 9, 10:11 a.m. – HealthKey, a Seattle-based eHealth initiative funded in part by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, N.J., released the results of its eHealth security projects documenting two years of work in five states.

The national HealthKey Program, which focuses on privacy and security standards, is a consortium of five states working to test real-world solutions for privacy and security in the healthcare market, and testing and deploying various security infrastructure initiatives across the five states.

HealthKey’s “Summary Report to the Community” finds that collaboration among information technology opinion leaders, competing healthcare vendors and government policymakers is the determining factor for the successful implementation of standardized security and privacy protections such as those required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

“The secure transmission of personal health data is critical to the improvement of healthcare in this nation,” says Laura Ripp, Healthkey program director.

In describing one of HealthKey’s pilot programs, Ripp said, “Collaboration among the government, IT vendors, healthcare providers, and health plans reduced the average time it took to report an infectious outbreak to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from over six weeks to a matter of days — replacing the old system of faxing information with a standardized and secure e-mail solution.

“The reduction in reporting time could allow state and local health departments and the CDC to react much more quickly to stop the spread of an infectious disease.”

eHealth is the digital transfer and storage of any type of patient-related data, Healthkey says.

Other benefits of broadly adopted protection policies and technologies include establishing business safeguards against legal liability, compliance with federal regulations, and building consumer trust in the healthcare system, Healthkey says, adding that concerns about system security, protecting personal privacy and the delay in final government regulations on security of patient data have been obstacles to the widespread adoption of eHealth.

To address these issues, HealthKey initiated this series of regional eHealth projects in five states to develop and test standardized security systems. The projects demonstrate that secure electronic information exchange can be accomplished between health care partners.

The organizations comprising the HealthKey program are: Massachusetts Health Data Consortium, Minnesota Health Data Institute, North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance, Utah Health Information Network and the Community Health Information Technology Alliance in Washington state.