The Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC), based in Simsbury, Conn., recently accredited St. Paul, Minn.-based RxHub. A national patient health information network, RxHub provides clinical decision support information to the e-prescribing industry, and is the first e-prescribing network to gain EHNAC accreditation.
RxHub facilitates the flow of patient information to physicians and other healthcare providers. According to RxHub, it delivers a standardized communication framework that links prescribers, pharmacies, PBMs and benefits plans for the purpose of sharing prescription benefit information and exchanging prescriptions electronically.
According to Lee Barrett, executive director of EHNAC, the commission has already implemented accreditation programs for clearing houses, transaction processors, value-added networks and provider management organizations. Barrett claims that the development of an EHNAC accreditation for e-prescribing networks spawned from the Maryland Health Care Commission's (MHCC) desire to regulate the e-prescribing industry as a whole. When developing accreditation criteria, EHNAC sought the advice of industry experts from a variety of vendors including Alexandria, Va.-based Surescripts, Elmwood Park, N.J.-based Emdeon, and Norcross, Ga.-based Medavant, adds Barrett. The organization even talked to RxHub during the process.
The end result, Barrett explains, was the compilation of industry and peer-evaluated criteria that can evaluate the services and business practices of an e-prescribing network.
As part of EHNAC accreditation, RxHub submitted an in-depth evaluation of its ability to transmit health information. A site reviewer assigned to RxHub oversaw the business operations testing, including technology infrastructure, data security, emergency preparedness, and customer service. In addition, a physical site inspection is required, after which the reviewer's report is given to the commission and the vendor. “Fortunately it's not a one shot deal for the vendor,” Barrett says. “If the commission finds deficiencies in their network, companies are able to go back and rectify them until they meet EHNAC standards.”
According to Barrett there are a number of potential pitfalls for e-prescribing networks. “Some entities might have trouble meeting the physical requirements regarding security. The danger is that protected health information has the potential to be mishandled. If an e-prescribing network doesn't have the appropriate controls and quality infrastructure in place, public health Information could be leaked”, he says. “I see a breach in this type of security to be the biggest danger in a failing e-prescribing network. If an entity undergoes EHNAC accreditation, this situation is less likely to occur.”
Prior to EHNAC's e-prescribing network accreditation program, there was no industry regulation standard. “Companies could, and still can, do whatever they want, and if their practices are unacceptable they don't have to answer to anyone,” Barrett says. Although clearing houses and entities processing healthcare transactions on behalf of healthcare organizations located in Maryland and New Jersey are legally required to gain EHNAC accreditation, accreditation for e-prescribing networks is not mandated.
According to Barrett, the benefits of accreditation are clear. Besides significantly helping a company with its self-evaluation, he claims EHNAC accreditation assures the public that it's met a certain quality standard. “The key difference between entities with EHANC accreditation and those without is that when people are looking for a vendor, seeing that a company is EHNAC accredited will inevitably decrease selection time and the amount of research required to make a discerning choice. They know the evaluation has been conducted by a third party without a vested interest, and are more likely to trust the process,” he says. “We hope that RxHub's EHNAC accreditation has helped to increase the visibility of the accreditation process, and hopefully other companies will take advantage of the services we have to offer,” Barrett says. According to him, one company is currently going through the accreditation process, and several others have expressed interest.
“I see a breach in this type of security to be the biggest danger in a failing e-prescribing network.”