Tech group urges action on health care mandates

The Information Technology Association of America tells IT providers targeting the health care sector to pay close attention to the details of the HIPAA legislation, or risk legal consequences.

A leading tech organization is urging health care IT providers to come to grips with the legal implications of federal health care mandates.

The Information Technology Association of America on Friday issued a white paper explaining the legal implications of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act for software vendors, application service providers, outsourcers and systems integrators. Companies that transmit health information electronically but do not comply with HIPAA regulations face the possibility of significant fines and other punishment, the group warned.

HIPAA, a massive array of legislation, is intended to modernize the way health care claims are processed and to improve privacy protection for patients, under what the ITAA referred to as an "onerous regulatory framework." Although it was enacted in 1996, a number of provisions have yet to take effect because of widespread challenges in installing the necessary infrastructure and coordinating the transition.

High-tech companies in this arena include specialists such as McKesson and WebMD--the largest clearinghouse in the market--as well as big software makers such as IBM, Microsoft and Oracle, which offer customized systems for health care.

"To best serve their customers, health care IT solution providers must address the developing concerns of their potential customer base," ITAA President Harris N. Miller said in a statement. "HIPAA and its implications, both internally and for potential customers, should be a central focus for health care IT solution providers."