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July 19, 2013
TOPEKA The day-to-day duties of regulating network-based, digital exchange of patient information in Kansas were fully passed off to the state this week, and the previous regulatory body — the Kansas Health Information Exchange, Inc. — has been officially dissolved.
Officials at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the state on Thursday began processing so-called "opt outs" — requests by patients to exclude their information from the statewide health information exchange.
Patients of doctors and hospitals connected to the exchange have their records automatically entered into the system — which facilitates access to the records by other connected providers via a secure network — unless individuals opt out online or by using a paper form.
The first six opt-out requests were submitted Thursday to KHDE via its new website — kanhit.org — officials said.
By the end of the year, 1 million Kansas patients are projected to have their records included on the exchange and about one-third of the state's hospitals will be connected to the exchange, according to network officials.
In addition to processing and ensuring the two licensed networks honor opt-out requests, KDHE is also required by law to provide a help desk to answer questions and address complaints from patients. KDHE began doing so July 8, and has so far received two phone calls, officials said. To date, KHIE had received 182 inquiries.
The help desk can be reached between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at (785) 783-8984 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KDHE officials have also said they intend to form an advisory board to guide the state in its oversight of the private networks that will now be licensed by the agency.
KDHE Deputy Secretary Aaron Dunkel leads the agency's new regulatory arm, which is called Kansas Health Information Technology, or KanHIT. He said his goal was to have an advisory board in place sometime in August.
In July 2012, KDHE officials proposed taking over the independent KHIE, Inc., as a way to save money. The KHIE board later agreed to move forward with the proposal at the same time that health information exchange was beginning in Kansas.
Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law the transition of authority, effective July 1.
Until yesterday, KHIE staff continued to handle some day-to-day regulatory duties. Outgoing KHIE chief executive, Bill Wallace, said he and his two staff members would continue through August working on the organization's fiscal 2013 audit, but that "KHIE is officially dissolved insofar as attending to the original purpose for the formation of the corporation."
KHIE, Inc. was an independent regulatory body formed by executive order in 2010. Its 15-member board included representatives of patients, doctors, hospitals and insurance companies. The group met monthly for four years leading up to KHIE's formation — and for nearly three years as the official regulatory body — to implement and enforce policies governing the private networks that it ultimately licensed to handle patient records. Providers who exchange patient information via a licensed network are granted some immunity from lawsuits should they inadvertently breach patient privacy.
As for the regulatory policies crafted over the last seven years, Dunkel said the state had no plans to change them.
While some policies will need to be technically modified and formalized, he said, "I don't think anything will change at this point."
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