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A study released in July found that 85% of health care providers have yet to complete assessments or gap analyses, which are critical to achieving compliance with the transaction regulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Because of the study’s findings, research and advisory firm Gartner, based in Stamford, CT, is recommending that the deadline for payer organizations being required to accept standardized transactions be extended one year, to Oct. 16, 2003.
Here is what survey respondents had to say about their readiness to meet the transaction deadlines:
• About 54% of providers have either not asked their software vendors to provide remediation strategies or have not received a response from these vendors.
• Many providers and payers still think their software vendors will carry the burden of compliance responsibility for them; 84% expect their vendors to "supply compliance" under maintenance contracts.
• About 55% of health care organizations feel that a one-year deadline extension would allow them an improved chance of meeting HIPAA’s objectives, and only 33% feel that a one-year extension would result in any lost momentum.
More than two-thirds of the survey respondents say their progress is slowed by doubts about the ultimate HIPAA deadlines — and whether HIPAA itself is here to stay. "These doubts, driven by continuing lobbying efforts and bills in Congress to effectively kill the regulation with a two- to four-year deadline extension, are severely damaging the HIPAA transaction regulation compliance effort," says Matt Duncan, Gartner research director and author of the study.
Gartner strongly recommends that Congress prioritize the resolution of any open bills regarding HIPAA. Gartner also wants the Department of Health and Human Services to expedite publication of the final enforcement rule. To accommodate the minimal progress demonstrated by providers so far, Gartner not only recommends extending the implementation deadline, but allowing a six-month transition period beyond that as well.
"There is a necessary sequence involved with implementation and testing activities," says Jim Klein, Gartner vice president. "From a practical standpoint, most payers are going to experience a period during which they have to accept standard and nonstandard transactions anyway, since not all providers are going to be ready."
These results are part of Gartner’s quarterly reporting on the industry’s overall progress in responding to HIPAA transaction, privacy, and security regulations. The first quarterly HIPAA Panel Study was launched in the fall of 2000.