For the most part, physicians and other Medicare Part B providers say they will be ready for the looming Oct. 16 deadline to comply with HIPAA technical guidelines on eight key electronic transactions.
But these providers, so-called "covered entities" under HIPAA, say they worry that their vendors and trading partners could hamper their compliance efforts, according to a new study released today by the Office of the Inspector General at HHS.
The eight electronic transactions covered by the HIPAA rules for transactions and codes sets, also known as the administrative simplification portion of the 1996 law, are for healthcare claims, benefit payments and remittance advice, coordination of benefits, claim status, enrollment, eligibility checks, premium payments and referrals.
The OIG investigators mailed 150 surveys to providers from Dec. 2, 2003, through April 4, 2003, and received a sample of 128 responses: 107 from physicians, 12 from durable medical equipment supplies and the rest from other practitioners such as chiropractors and nurse anesthetists.
The key findings from the survey are:
- 95% of providers say they plan to or are currently working with vendors to implement HIPAA transaction standards.
- 94% say they have a moderate to high level of satisfaction that they expect to meet the Oct. 16 deadline.
- 88% say they could implement the standards at the time they took the survey.
- 50% say they are developing backup plans in case they don't make it.
- More than 80% of those providers are using a claims clearinghouse; of those, 90% say they will continue to use one.
- About 90% of providers say they either have or intend to develop a testing strategy for their data interchanges, while 46% say they have begun some testing.
- Providers say they are using a combination of internal staff, technical consultants and newly purchased equipment to gain compliance.
- 85% say they have leaned on their trade associations for help with HIPAA.
- 68% say they have invested in or plan to buy new system components as part of their HIPAA implementation strategy.
Final rules for this phase of HIPAA were adopted in August 2000, with an original compliance date of Oct. 2002. But in late 2001, President Bush signed legislation allowing providers to request a one-year postponement of compliance. Nearly all of the providers surveyed said they had asked for a one-year extension from the original deadline.