Friday, August 21, 2009

HHS Certified EHR's Coming Soon!

The voice of physicians has been finally heard in Washington

Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, also widely known as CCHIT, the sole certifying body for EHR's, has long been perceived as been in collusion with big health care IT vendors (since it was originally founded by major IT vendors) and viewed with some degree of suspicion by health care organizations. CCHIT as part of its certification criteria has focussed solely on feature sets that are required to be inside an EHR for them to qualify. Up until very recently it was widely expected that to be considered Certified EHR for the purpose of the HITECH Act, it would need to meet CCHIT criteria & need to be certified by CCHIT.

However, over the past few months the debate on what qualifies for incentives veered towards meaningful use. The ONC chair publicly derided current EHR IT vendors that their software was simply too difficult to use (see some of my previous blogs) and threw his weight behind "meaningful use" to be the yardstick that determines who gets a piece of the ARRA pie.

Given that CCHIT was the only real certifying body for EHR's the absence of another player would mean that invariably CCHIT will at least be the initial body for certification. There was a general fear among health professionals & the sector in general that it was either the CCHIT way or the highway. Well, that changed this Friday.

On Friday, the Health Information Technology Policy Committee recommended to the Dept. of Health and Human Services that electronic health record products should be certified by multiple organizations. The recommendation essentially validates criticism of conflict of interest by the Certification Commission for Health care Information Technology (CCHIT), currently the only body that certifies such products, because health care IT vendors helped form the group back in 2004 and have influenced their decisions and direction.
Basically, what the above means is that CCHIT will have to finally play nice with "meaningful use" definition & come up with a HHS Certified program which would be more in line with what health care professionals & the industry at large wanted in general. There are huge implications to it and here are some that I see

a) EHR & Health care IT in general will get cheaper, since CCHIT backers are no longer the sole bastions of certification criteria, allowing true competition to prevail thereby lowering prices for the industry
b) "Meaningful Use" would allow the focus to be on improving health care outcomes & efficiency, whereas CCHIT focused on bloated features sets to keep new entrants and true innovators outside the mainstream
c) Health care professionals & clinicians would finally get a say on what they feel is most usable & achieves the goals set by ONC & President Obama.

Now that the debate is coming to a close and HHS certification program ready to be unveiled in October, the intent & purpose of the HITECH Act is finally being realized.

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