In wide-ranging interview, secretary says her state health cabinet is a national leader in guarding the privacy of electronic data

Despite concerns elsewhere about the privacy of personal health information, Kentucky’s top health official says her agency is one of the best in the nation at protecting and managing such data.

Audrey Tayse Haynes, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, talked about information technology and privacy in an interview with Mark Green, editor of The Lane Report, a Lexington-based business publication. She credited her cabinet’s information-technology department and its good record on privacy.

Secretary Audrey Haynes

“We have an extraordinary IT department at this cabinet,” Haynes said. “They really are
stellar. I’ve worked at national organizations, in the federal
government, and of course at the state level, and we have as good an IT
department, if not better, than any I’ve seen. That gives us in-house
expertise and also, obviously, they can contract for further expertise.”

She added, “This cabinet has a long history of maintaining people’s private
information because of Medicaid and food stamps and many other programs
that we run here. Last year millions of dollars were collected for
Kentucky’s kids through court-ordered child support that runs through
this cabinet. We have very strict requirements, both at the federal and
state levels, and we take privacy very seriously. Our IT department and
others plan for it, and we’re alert to it all the time.”

Haynes said Kentucky is also a national leader in helping health-care providers share electronic health records, through the Kentucky Health Information Exchange, with more than 2,000 participating and getting more than $144
million in federal incentive payments. The information exchange “is nationally recognized as being in the forefront for the exchange of
health information records,” Haynes said. “We are one of the most progressive in the
nation.”

She noted that the cabinet also runs KASPER (the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting) system, which doctors and medical professionals check before
prescribing controlled substances to prevent drug abuse. A 2012 law cracking down on prescription painkillers required prescribers to use the system, and it now has more than 24,700 users, Haynes said. “KASPER is a very complex system to maintain,” she said, “but it is keeping Kentucky at the forefront nationally as far as helping
to curb the prescription drug problem in our state.

Green and Haynes touched on many subjects in the interview, which as published runs almost 3,000 words. She said the state’s health-insurance exchange, Kynect, has been successful also because of its executive director, Carrie Banahan, who “has a long history of
experience with insurance, with Medicaid and with management. That’s
critical. And we made it not just Carrie’s project but a Cabinet
project. Then we were able to get a great company that was very
committed to the success of this in Deloitte” Consulting, which built the system. “Finally, we kept it simple. We knew we could make
improvements as the months and years went on. We didn’t try to be too
fancy right out of the gate. We knew that it needed to work well when it
was launched – that was more important than making it the fanciest
online system right away.”

Haynes concluded, “When I came back from Washington, D.C., to take this job, people who
know me and know this cabinet were very surprised, but I’ve never
regretted it. I believe in public service as well as in the role of the
private sector, and this has been a dream job for me because I’ve had an
opportunity to work making good policy. I’ve had some pretty neat dream
jobs in my career, but this is certainly going to be the topper. Few of
us ever have an opportunity to say that we have done something that can
truly have an impact and be part of something that’s going to have an
impact for many, many years. I think about that all the time. I wouldn’t
want to be anywhere else.” (Read more)
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