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WIRED for Health Act

Health Law Update Sarah E. Coyne

Wisconsin made a step forward on the long and pothole-ridden road to an electronic medical record network on May 11, 2010 when Governor Doyle signed into law Assembly Bill 779, otherwise known as the WIRED for Health Act.

As you are no doubt aware from poring over our previous (and endlessly enlightening) client updates, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act ("HITECH") makes many changes affecting the privacy and security of patient health information. HITECH also allows the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to promote the electronic exchange of health information. States may receive grants directly or may designate a non-profit corporation that meets certain criteria to apply for and receive the federal grants available under HITECH. To be eligible for this funding, states must have the infrastructure in place to allow providers to exchange electronic health records.

The WIRED for Health Act will help Wisconsin facilities capture these funds (potentially between $500 million to $800 million in incentive payments) by creating a framework for implementing such an infrastructure. The WIRED for Health Act allows the secretary of the Department of Health Services ("DHS") to designate a non-profit corporation as the entity to apply for and receive federal funding under HITECH if the corporation meets certain requirements, including:

  1. A purpose of the corporation, as specified in its articles of incorporation or bylaws, is to use information technology to improve health care quality and efficiency through the authorized and secure electronic exchange and use of health information.

  2. The corporation reports to DHS annually regarding progress toward implementing a statewide health information exchange.
  3. The corporation complies with requirements to receive grants under HITECH.
  4. The structure and bylaws of the corporation permit it to consult with outside entities regarding the statewide health information exchange.
  5. The board of directors includes: (i) the state health officer; (ii) a person appointed by the secretary of DHS; (iii) a person appointed by the governor; and (iv) one or more persons representing each of the following: health care providers, health insurers or health plans, employers who purpose or self-insure employee health care, health care consumers or advocates, and higher education.
  6. The corporation agrees to fulfill certain purposes, among them: (i) building substantial health information exchange capacity statewide; (ii) developing policies and recommending legislation to advance statewide and interstate health information exchange and protect consumer privacy; (iii) facilitating the creation of an infrastructure supporting statewide health information exchange and interoperability; (iv) providing oversight and accountability for health information exchange; (v) creating a model statewide patient consent and authorization process to allow electronic access to, review of, or disclosure of a patient's identifiable health care information; (vi) increasing public awareness of and support for statewide health information exchange; and (vii) monitoring health information technology and exchange efforts nationally and facilitating alignment of statewide, interstate and national health information exchange strategies.

No doubt there is still a long way to go before a statewide network is achieved; roadblocks will surely be encountered, but the WIRED for Health Act may help pave the way.

For more information on the WIRED for Health Act or other Health Law issues, please contact Sarah Coyne at (608) 283-2435 / or your local Quarles & Brady attorney.