Colorado becomes part of federal privacy effort

Filed under: Health Care |

Colorado is among 34 states and territories that have joined a federal effort to analyze privacy and security concerns that are barriers to sharing electronic information among health care providers.

The Colorado Health Information Security and Privacy Collaboration (HISPC) project is part of a nationwide effort led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and involving the National Governors Association to accelerate the sharing health information electronically to improve health and health care quality.

The project seeks to reduce variations in business policies and state laws related to the privacy and security of health information.

The Colorado Health Institute (CHI) was selected by Gov. Bill Owens to oversee the year-long project. CHI serves as facilitator for Colorado’s developing Regional Health Information Organization, CORHIO.

The HISPC project will provide an opportunity for residents throughout the state to share their concerns and provide input about business practices and solutions to privacy issues and develop a plan to implement the solutions.

Information about the structure, scheduled meetings and activities of the HISPC working groups will be available on the CORHIO
Web
site when it is launched later this month (www.corhio.org).

Colorado launches smoke-free call center

To help residents and business owners understand the nuances of the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, the statewide smoke-free law, Colorado is launching an informational call center and a Web site.

The free call center, at (888) 701-2006, is available 24 hours a day. The Web site is www.smokefreeColorado.org.

Colorado’s statewide smoke-free law, which goes into effect July 1, requires most indoor public areas, including restaurants, bars and most workplaces, to be smoke-free.

The call center is designed to handle a large number of inquiries in a short period of time. The state anticipates significant interest from mid-June to a few weeks after the law is implemented. Callers, after initially being identified as individuals or business owners, are offered the options of receiving automated, pre-recorded information about the most frequently asked questions or talking to an operator to have their questions answered.

Business owners may have questions about exemptions to the law and will learn that the only exemptions are casinos, cigar-tobacco bars, retail tobacco businesses, up to a quarter of hotel and motel rooms, limousines for-hire and Denver International Airport’s smoking lounge. Callers also can ask questions about how the law impacts them, such as how far away from building entrances they must be to smoke, penalties for violating the law, enforcement and informational materials for businesses.

All Web site content will be available in English and Spanish, and an online fact sheet will be translated into 12 languages to ensure all Coloradoans understand the law.

Colorado is the 13th state to enact a smoke-free law.

Summer is time to prepare for West Nile Virus

Officials from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have advised residents to take precautions against West Nile virus by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds in their back yards and wearing insect repellent and using other methods to avoid mosquito bites when outdoors.

“Although we can’t yet predict how severe the West Nile virus season will be this year, we do know that we will see virus activity statewide,” said John Pape, an epidemiologist who specializes in animal-related diseases at the department.

West Nile Virus is carried by certain birds and is transmitted to people by bites from mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds. Female Culex mosquitoes, the species that carries the virus, usually start emerging in late April or early May.

Studies show that cool, wet weather in early spring followed by very hot temperatures throughout the summer could result in a bad year.

Pape said that state and local public health officials initiated West Nile virus surveillance in birds and mosquitoes May 1. To date, no positive birds or mosquitoes have been found. Mosquito collections show that the numbers of Culex mosquitoes are low, but growing.

People who find dead wild birds or who would like to report sick or dying birds in their poultry flocks should call the Colorado Emergency Line for the Public at (877) 462-2911, he said.

The emergency line staff is available to respond to calls from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays and from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.

In addition to taking dead bird reports, staff can answer most questions about West Nile virus.

The hotline is operated by the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Control Center and is under contract to the Department of Public Health and Environment’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Program.

In 2005, Colorado had 106 West Nile virus cases in humans. A total of 291 human cases of West Nile virus, including four deaths, were reported in Colorado in 2004. This represented a sharp downturn from the first full season of West Nile virus in Colorado in 2003, when there were 2,947 confirmed human cases of the disease and 63 deaths.

The Department of Public Health and Environment and local public health agencies maintain a Web site containing additional information about West Nile virus at www.FightTheBiteColorado.com.

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.