RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — One U.S. territory Puerto Rico and 33 states that have asked to participate in a joint project concerning privacy and sercurity questions have all signed subcontracting agreements with RTI International.

The project is titled Halth Information Security and Privacy Collaboration (HISPC).

RTI’s HISPC effort is being conducted under its Privacy and Security Solutions for Interoperable Health Information Exchange contract (Privacy and Security Contract) with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The participating states include: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Wyoming and Puerto Rico.

The Privacy and Security Contract is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) strategy to identify variations in privacy and security practices and laws affecting electronic health information exchange, develop best practices and propose solutions to address identified challenges, and increase expertise about health information privacy and security protections at the community level.

The participating states and territories selected to participate are charged with bringing together a broad range of stakeholders to develop consensus-based solutions to problematic variations in privacy and security business policies, practices and state laws within their states.

The project is being managed by RTI and supported by the National Governors Association (NGA) as a public-private collaboration that seeks to assess variations in organization-level business practices and policies and current state laws related to the privacy and security of health information. RTI is working with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) at HHS.

“Current policies and laws governing the security and privacy of health care information vary considerably nationwide,” said Linda Dimitropoulos, RTI’s project director. “This collaborative effort among experts will help us work through the myriad security and privacy issues so that policy makers at the state and federal levels can begin to address the concerns that will allow Americans to benefit from improved sharing of health care information.”

The current contract is worth $17.23 million and has a 19-month period of performance.

The participating states and territories will finish state-level interim assessments and analyze solutions by fall 2006, completing the project by March 2007. At that time, representatives from each region will discuss implementation plans that will allow electronic sharing of health information across states and territories.

The governors of all 55 U.S. states and territories were invited by RTI and NGA to submit proposals to participate in the privacy and security project. The subcontracts were awarded as part of a competitive process based on an evaluation of proposals against technical and cost criteria and the ability to meet the technical requirements of the project.