Security, Costs Top Health Care Net Challenges

FRAMINGHAM (04/03/2000) - Although Internet access among physicians and pharmacy workers nearly tripled last year, health care organizations are still grappling with a number of challenges in offering this service to employees, according to a new study. The top challenge is security, followed closely by cost, according to "Health Care 2000," a report issued by VHA Inc., a cooperative of community hospitals in Irving, Texas, and New York-based Deloitte Consulting.

Roughly 80 percent of the more than 300 hospital executives who responded said they granted Internet access to staff physicians and employees in the pharmacy department. According to the report, less than one-third of these employees were connected to the Web a year ago.

Still, nearly 70 percent of the respondents said security and cost remain key challenges in extending Internet service to employees. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) may be one reason that health care executives are concerned with security. HIPAA outlines security and privacy standards that apply to the health care industry (see story), though the government has yet to issue the final version of these standards.

Other challenges to extending Internet access include managing employees' time (56 percent) and network infrastructure (42 percent).

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