NU Online News Service, March 13, 2003, 11:55 a.m. EST – The National Committee for Quality Assurance, Washington, is exploring the possibility of developing a privacy certification program for health care “business associates” with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

New federal regulations stemming from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 require the business associates of doctors, hospitals and health insurers to protect the privacy of personal health information.

The doctors, hospitals and insurers are responsible for using accreditation programs, certification programs and other means to verify that their business associates are doing a good job of protecting private health information.

Traditionally, the NCQA has accredited managed care plans and the JCAHO has accredited hospitals, residential treatment facilities and clinics. But the JCAHO helped the NCQA develop draft standards for a privacy certification program that the NCQA released in December 2002, the organizations say.

The NCQA hopes to release the final privacy certification standards in May.