The Health Information Trust Alliance, known as HITRUST and a consortium best known for developing the Common Security Framework of best practices, has formed a working group to tackle standards for de-identification of protected health information.

The working group includes members representing IMS Health, Merck, Optum and WellPoint. A HITRUST executive was not immediately available to discuss why providers and privacy advocates are not part of the group.

The working group will address issues related to physician and patient privacy concerns, the need for standards for defining acceptable processes for de-identifying health information, and using and managing de-identified data. “The intent of the HITRUST De-Identification Working Group is to establish a uniform and practical approach to data de-identification that balances the risks and benefits of using the data, while taking into account the advancement of health care innovation, increased access to health care, and the protection of individual patient privacy,” according to a statement from the organization.

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Initial guidance from the working group, defining multiple levels of de-identification and recommended use cases, is expected during the third quarter. Additional guidance in the fourth quarter and through 2013 will cover criteria for assessing the risk of re-identification, evaluating de-identification methods and certifying the expertise of professionals. More information on HITRUST is available here.

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