Wanted: HIPAA Help
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act has many healthcare companies perplexed with compliance issues. Enter the channel's opportunity to lend a hand.
There's an old adage in the technology industry: "Where there's mystery, there's margin." Simply stated, money can be made by helping people understand the unknown. One industry that's in need of a lot of assistance is healthcare. This industry is undergoing major changes due to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Published by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), HIPAA affects all health-related organizations in the United States, from one-physician offices to hospitals, insurance companies, and other healthcare organizations. HIPAA imposes sweeping standards for the privacy and protection of all electronic health information that is linked to individuals. HIPAA regulations went into effect in April 2003, and companies must comply in the next two years.
Technology Solutions For HIPAA
HIPAA was the topic of discussion on a recent National Public Radio (NPR) show I listened to. The show was inundated with calls from physicians, pharmacists, insurance providers, and patients with questions about HIPAA. What methods of data storage comply with HIPAA? How do you control individuals' access to this data? How can this data be shared among approved healthcare organizations?
Herein lies the opportunity for technology providers who have solutions to help with HIPAA compliance. At Storage World Conference 2003 and the AIIM 2003 Exposition and Conference this spring, there was a plethora of document management and storage technology vendors displaying these types of solutions. (Check out Document and Content Management Editor Jackie Mauriello's article on solutions for HIPAA at AIIM 2003 in our June 2003 issue, p. 42.) Document management and storage aren't the only technologies that help with HIPAA compliance. Networking, security, and data collection solutions are all being applied to address HIPAA issues.
Channel Addresses HIPAA Needs
Business Solutions has featured a number of VARs and integrators who provide solutions for HIPAA. One example is integrator Creative Business Concepts (CBC). CBC hosted half-day seminars about network security and HIPAA for company executives. CBC's investment has paid off. At the seminars, CBC presented to 100 companies and landed 3 deals as a result.
I recently received a letter from a reader who is actively pursuing HIPAA business. Computer & Hi-tech Management (CHM) was awarded a $289,000 contract for a solution that will aid Sierra Military Health Services (SMHS) with HIPAA compliance. CHM will implement a LaserFiche document management solution to assist with the coordination of SMHS' healthcare products and services for military personnel and veterans.
Opportunities With Regulated Industries
HIPAA isn't the only government regulation driving technology adoption. There's been a lot of buzz surrounding the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. This act was passed in response to the corporate financial scandals of companies like Enron. Sarbanes-Oxley imposes stricter regulations and reporting on the auditing practices of publicly held companies. Again, technology is helping simplify some of the organizational changes associated with this regulation.
Of course, the mere existence of HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley doesn't mean healthcare and financial companies will be banging down your door for solutions. You're going to need to gain knowledge of these markets, regulations, and the applicable technologies. The good news is these regulations are forcing companies to turn their attention to technology and loosen the purse strings on an otherwise tight IT budget.