Soon, Filing Insurance Claims Won't Try One's Patients

Handling insurance claims can be a pain for consumers and physicians alike. That may change. The insurance industry is backing a new interactive computer network that will link insurers, doctors, and hospitals. The Health Care Information Network (HCIN) will provide on-line electronic access to information on insurance eligibility, specialist referrals, authorization for treatment, and other data on a patient's account.

The ultimate goal is a paperless transaction--similar to that on an automatic teller machine. "We're trying to make it hassle-free for both the patient and the physician, while reducing the administrative cost of health care," says Kenneth J. O'Donnell, president of National Electronic Information Corp. (NEIC) in Secaucus, N.J., an insurance carrier-owned company. NEIC is setting up HCIN as a joint venture with PCS Inc., a subsidiary of McKesson Corp. Initially, HCIN will not provide on-line access to patients' medical histories. That won't happen until there are encryption standards for safeguarding electronic access to such confidential information.

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