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D.C. Report: Focus on Certification, State Directories

September 14, 2010
by Sharon Canner, Sr. Director of Advocacy Programs
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Focus on Certification. With the selection of the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) and the Drummond Group by ONC/HHS in late August as the first official review bodies authorized to test and certify electronic health record (EHR) systems for compliance with the standards and certification criteria, the EHR Incentive Program moved one important step forward. ONC has projected that initial certified systems would be ready as early as late September. Drummond, based in Austen, Texas, is an interoperability test lab offering global testing services throughout the product life cycle. CCHIT, founded in 2004, laid much of the certification groundwork for today’s federal rules under the HITECH Act.

While many hospitals will purchase systems certified by CCHIT and Drummond and additional ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Body (ONC-ATCB) to be officially designated by ONC, some will seek alternative approaches, such as site certification. For example, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) is one of a number of participants in a pilot program designed to validate the supporting tools and processes for CCHIT's EHR Alternative Certification for Hospitals (EACH). This ONC-ATCB EHR certification program for customized or self-developed hospital EHR technology is scheduled for release by CCHIT later this year. The program uses HHS criteria and standards, and NIST test procedures. According to BIDMC CIO and Co-chair of the HIT Standards Committee John Halamka, the pilot program will test their attestation website and other supporting tools to be followed by a webex demonstration of each certification criterion.

State Directories Subject of New Policy Task Force. Health information exchange will require a means to find information on patients and health care providers across a state or region. To examine this issue, the HIT Policy Committee created a Task Force on State Directories. Co-chaired by Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, Waltham, Mass., CEO Micky Tripathi, M.D., and Pacific Business Group on Health CEO David Lansky, this subgroup of the HIE Workgroup will develop recommendations on a standard set of requirements for the directories for presentation at the Committee’s October meeting. Directories, according to Tripathi, could serve as a key component in the infrastructure of health information exchanges and to enhance public health alerts and communications.

Already in use in some states are listings of providers from immunization registries, e-prescribing networks and state medical boards. These could form the basis of authoritative state or regional electronic directories with provider names and addresses. At the same time, there are hurdles to be overcome, including costs. Many states are dealing with diminished budgets for public health, just as healthcare providers are struggling with developing the necessary funding to meet "meaningful use" requirements for electronic health records.