Web site can help coordinate HIPAA efforts

Site intended to reduce repetition, legwork

Two leading health care industry coalitions have launched a universal web site aimed at standardizing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) communications between health plans and the provider community, including hospitals, physicians, billing services, vendors, and clearinghouses. The site is a collaboration of the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare (CAQH) and the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI).

The free web site is intended to make HIPAA compliance easier by reducing much of the legwork and repetition among businesses that work together, says Jim Schuping, executive vice president of WEDI, a health care industry coalition dedicated to improving health care through electronic commerce. "HIPAA specifies what payers must do to comply with HIPAA regulations, but it does not regulate how payers communicate this information to the provider community," he says. "If they were to visit every health plan’s site to access its proprietary HIPAA information, providers would be subjected to an overwhelming administrative burden."

The CAQH-WEDI web site eases the transition to HIPAA compliance by enabling participating health plans to communicate their information about changes in one place, using one format, so that providers can access multiple plans’ information quickly and conveniently.

By participating in the CAQH-WEDI site, providers can avoid "reinventing the wheel" on HIPAA communications, says Robin Thomashauer, executive director of CAQH, a not-for-profit alliance of the nation’s leading health plans and networks.

The CAQH-WEDI web site serves as a resource to providers in two ways: An Implementation Timeline allows health plans to complete and post their plan-specific HIPAA standards testing and production schedules on the site in a standardized format.

Providers then access the transaction schedules for plans they contract with in one location.

Also, the site offers a Best Practices Companion Guide Template. Health plans can download this template of best practices to develop provider-friendly companion guides, and then providers can access the guides from participating plan links on the site. The site already has plan participation in more than 25 states, penetrating all regions of the country. The CAQH-WEDI web site is provided at no charge to health plans and providers and updated weekly as additional plans post their timelines.

To see the web site, go to: www.wedi.org/snip/caqhimptools.