Mass. health care providers opt for PKI

As part of a pilot program that has the health care industry attempting to make better use of the Internet, the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium has chosen digital signature software to secure its electronic messages and documents.

The public-key infrastructure software, provided by Baltimore Technologies PLC, uses two keys — one held by the sender, who encrypts the message or document, and another used to unencrypt it — in order to verify that a document came from the correct person and was not altered in transit.

The software will be used for confidential information such as claims decision, authorizations for inpatient and outpatient services and contracting issues.

The pilot program, called HealthKey, is designed to increase the health care industry's level of service. Its goals are to use information technology to aggregate data, coordinate systems and reduce administrative costs and improve the efficiency and quality of the industry's care.

The first step in the program is to ensure that using the Internet does not jeopardize a patient's privacy. Thus, the consortium chose Baltimore Technologies' UniCERT Options PKI Hosting to secure the pilot network program.

The Massachusetts consortium, which includes four providers (Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Tufts Health Plan, Children's Hospital and Care Group Inc.), and other organizations in Washington, Utah, Minnesota and North Carolina are taking part in the program.

Through the pilot program, the members hope to learn about what levels of security, types of controls and technologies are appropriate and necessary for the industry.

Baltimore Technologies, a worldwide company operating from more than 20 cities, develops security products and services for the Internet

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