Members of the executive committee of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations were set at deadline to recommend to the full board that the JCAHO get out of the business of selling analyses of hospital data to third parties. Four of the executive committee's six members and the JCAHO's chief executive officer, Dennis O'Leary, met last month with top leaders of four of the Joint Commission's five member organizations. The issue of whether the JCAHO will require hospitals to submit patient-level data as part of accreditation remains on the table, a JCAHO spokeswoman said. The decision follows six months of controversy over a data-mining contract between a JCAHO subsidiary and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
Bill would create privacy standard
HHS will recommend to Congress a single federal privacy standard to promote electronic medical records and e-prescribing, replacing state and federal laws, under legislation introduced by Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.). The bill also would set up a certification process to ensure health information technologies meet interoperability standards; direct HHS to revamp its 30-year-old diagnosis coding system; and require the HHS secretary to report to Congress within two years on the progress of the American Health Information Community initiative to develop a national strategic plan to implement a health IT infrastructure.
Why privacy bill is needed: Take one
Personal information for 2,800 patients making or changing doctor appointments on April 19, 2004, at the Ohio State University Medical Center was accidentally placed in a computer file accessible through an Internet search, says OSU Health Systems Privacy Officer Margaret Johnson. Johnson says the file was available through an Internet search "with a specific combination of elements." An individual making such a search discovered the file "a few weeks ago" and notified the system. The system then blocked public access to the server containing the file and took steps to remove any traces of the information. Johnson says the system notified patients of the error in a letter and offered to provide 12 months of free credit monitoring and protection. So far, there is no indication that the information was misused, although it might have been accessible for about 18 months, Johnson says.
Why privacy bill is needed: Take two
Wilcox Memorial Hospital, Lihue, Hawaii, notified patients and the local police department that it is missing a portable computer hard-drive containing 130,000 patient names, addresses, Social Security numbers and medical record numbers. The Kauai Police Department says it has yet to determine if the drive was stolen or misplaced. A hospital news release said there were no signs of inappropriate use of the information, and the hospital was working to prevent future data losses. At deadline, hospital officials were not available for comment.
Ore. hospitals go public with data
The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems launched a public Web site ranking member hospitals on how well they provide care for some of the most common and costly conditions. The site, www.orhospitalquality.org, uses data from the CMS to score hospitals on several quality indicators related to four main conditions: heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and surgical-infection prevention.
Campaign targets medication errors
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices will launch an educational campaign next year in an effort to reduce medication errors that result from ambiguous abbreviations and dose designations on prescriptions. The Huntingdon Valley, Pa.-based ISMP has advocated the elimination of these potentially harmful abbreviations for the past three decades, officials with the not-for-profit organization say. The campaign, scheduled to begin in the first half of 2006, will target healthcare professionals, medical writers, the pharmaceutical industry and FDA staff.
Health IT magazine changes hands
McGraw-Hill Cos. sold four healthcare trade publications, including Healthcare Informatics, to Vendome Group for undisclosed terms. The other publications are The Physician, Postgraduate Medicine and Sportsmedicine. Since its formation last year, Vendome, based in New York, has bought five publishing groups.
Interim chief named at CalRHIO
Lori Hack has been appointed interim chief executive officer of the California Regional Health Information Organization (CalRHIO) by the planning committee of the year-old health data exchange. Hack is the former executive director of the not-for-profit Health Technology Center in San Francisco. She also served as executive director of the Alta Bates Medical Group in Berkeley, Calif., and has held several hospital and health-plan leadership positions. "CalRHIO has made excellent progress in the past year," Hack said in a statement. "We have more than 60 healthcare-related organizations and government agencies involved in our various working groups and committees, and we have raised nearly $5 million. It's been our goal from the outset to establish CalRHIO as an independent, self-sustaining organization."