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Flurry of HIPAA Activity Expected Over Next Three Months

Dom Nicastro, for HealthLeaders Media, December 2, 2009

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in all likelihood will publish a draft or interim final rule outlining the new requirements for composing and updating business associate (BA) contracts in February, the same month BAs must comply with HIPAA's security rule, one HIPAA expert tells HealthLeaders Media.

Chris Apgar, CISSP, president of Apgar & Associates, LLC, in Portland, OR, and also a board member of the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI), spoke with an HHS official at WEDI's 2009 Fall Conference in Baltimore earlier this month.

Apgar says HHS, which oversees OCR, is in the "process of trying to put out a fair number of rules, from what does a BA contract need to contain to the 'meaningful use' definition [on EHRs] as well as look at plans to help the healthcare industry prepare for ICD-10 conversion, and the implementation of the HIPAA 5010 transaction and code sets."

Covered entities must update their contracts with BAs by February 17, 2010, the statutory compliance date in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The government also hopes to synchronize Medicare and Medicaid rules for reimbursement incentives for "meaningful users" of EHRs. The draft rule on the definition of meaningful use is due by December 31, 2009.

The WEDI conference included a focus on the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), which is a part of ARRA, funding, and breach notification.

While OCR may publish rules on BA contracts in February, Apgar says covered entities should not wait until then to update their BA contracts.

"That's the thing that needs to be emphasized—you can't wait until the rules are final," Apgar says. "If you're waiting, my advice is don't because the statutory deadline is February 17, 2010."

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