What do you do when you are bound by law to educate thousands of employees in less than a year on privacy standards contained in a 350-page, fine-print document?If you're like most health insurers, you spend a lot of time interpreting the privacy rules of the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you boil them down to simplified policies and guidelines, you determine what employees need to know to perform specific jobs, you develop a training program, and you begin instruction.

And-if you're smart-you also look for a compelling way to present the information and document that each employee has been trained.

"We entertained a fair number of groups that offer (HIPAA) training, and we found that most of it is text-based-with a big manual full of pages of federal law and what it all means to you," says Ron Romano, ombudsman, privacy officer and vice president of consumer affairs at Boston-based Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. "We said, 'No way. Our folks are not going to want to read all that,'" he says. Instead, the Blues plan partnered with Boston-based Beacon Learning Inc. to develop an animated, online training program, which the insurer's 3,500 employees can complete in increments-or all at once-at their own workstations.

Employees log on and see an illustration of the company's building. Then, they enter the lobby where they are greeted by a cartoon character who directs them to seven floors of instruction.

When they've visited every floor and completed every lesson successfully, they receive a certificate.

Typically, the entire program takes 90 minutes to finish, says Romano, who receives progress reports. "I can track online in real time how many people have been through the program; how long they took to complete it; and who has not been through it yet," he says. This way, "I know who to call to say, 'You've got to get moving on this.' It's a great program."

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