HISPC Privacy Project Receives Extension

The Health Information Security and Privacy Collaboration (HISPC) will continue its work to foster nationwide health information exchange through a recently announced extension. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) set the extension to begin April 1 after determining funds remained from the most recent phase of the project, which was scheduled to end last month.

Under HISPC, 42 US states and territories have worked to identify and solve privacy and security barriers to health information exchange (HIE). Formed in 2006, HISPC organized into seven multistate collaboratives in its most recent phase, each focused on a specific issue such as interstate disclosure and patient consent requirements or consumer education.

Currently in its third and final phase, HISPC was originally scheduled to wrap up its work at a March national conference in which the seven collaboratives demonstrated their deliverables. But the no-cost extension that begins today will allow the groups more time to complete, test, and implement their work, according to Linda Dimitropoulos, PhD, the director of the health services program at RTI International and project manager for HISPC. RTI, based in Chicago, was contracted by ONC to run HISPC.

The extension was welcomed by HISPC participants as a way to keep their momentum going. The work of discovery and consensus-building takes time, Dimitropoulos said, and the groups “have been pressed; the schedules have been so aggressive that this gave them a little breathing room to actually finalize their work in a way that they can be really happy and proud of.”

The HISPC phase 3 Challenge and Innovation Stage will last until July 31. During the extension, all seven collaboratives will use the tools developed by the Consumer Education and Engagement and Provider Education Collaboratives to conduct outreach and education on HIE health information exchange issues with consumers and providers in HISPC states.

A Window to Keep the Work Going

In phase 3, the Inter-Organizational Agreements Collaborative developed a standardized legal agreement that promotes the interstate exchange of public health data such as immunization records. The group will use the extension to lobby additional states to adopt the form and begin exchanging limited data.

Public health data exchange is already taking place between several state health departments through the collaborative’s work. The group will also continue to increase the number of private organizations exchanging health data with other private entities, another of its initiatives.

The Provider Education Collaborative initially focused its HIE education outreach to primary care physicians. During the extension, the collaborative will adapt its materials for specialty physicians and reach out to those groups, Dimitropoulos said.

As of now, HISPC will end following the completion of the phase 3 extension. An additional year of work was built into the original contract, but ONC has opted not to renew the project, Dimitropoulos said. Given the leadership change occurring at both Health and Human Services and ONC, including the recent appointment of new ONC head David Blumenthal, healthcare experts have said ONC officials are waiting to finalize any initiatives until the new administration’s priorities and goals are established.

RTI plans to release its HISPC wrap-up report this summer in the form of an “action and implementation” manual, which will detail the findings, tools, and deliverables. RTI will add an addendum describing the work done during the extension.

A feature in the upcoming May issue of the Journal offers a look at the ambitious three-year HISPC project and details select work from its most recent phase.

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