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Health IT Testing Program Formed; Makes Way for Interoperable Data Sharing

October 11, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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Thanks to a new established public-private partnership of states, public agencies, federally-funded health information exchanges (HIEs), and health information technology companies, more than half of the U.S. population and their healthcare providers may have access to health data shared across multiple states and systems. The partnership has established a program that will certify and test EHRs and other health IT systems to transfer data within and across state boundaries.

The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, an independent non-profit organization which has certified EHR technology since 2006, has been announced as the compliance testing body. The initiative is  led by the EHR/HIE Interoperability Workgroup,  the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), and Healtheway, the newly formed public-private partnership of the eHealth Exchange, a network of 34 public and private organizations representing hundreds of hospitals, thousands of providers and millions of patients across the country.

"Today's announcement brings together several activities supported by ONC over the past years: a core set of national standards, an Accredited Certification Body, the public-private partnership that has emerged from the Nationwide Health Information Network Exchange, and the convening power of New York and other State Health Information Exchange grantees.” Farzad Mostashari, M.D., the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with this consortium to continue progress on interoperability and secure health information exchange, and to reflect what is learned in national standards as necessary.”

According to the coalition, various barriers such as high costs and technical difficulties have prevented this from happening in the past. However, getting all these different partners on board, the coalition says, will allow for the creation of an automated testing program capable of exchanging health information with many other systems. The testing from CCHIT will allow a single set of standardized, easy-to-implement connections to support communication. CCHIT will certify that the interfaces between the HIT and HIEs are consistent across multiple states and systems.

The EHR/HIE Interoperability Workgroup is a NYeC creation, which aimed to develop the technical specifications that thwart interoperable exchange. This was done along with the NwHIN exchange transitioning governance to the public-private network called the eHealth Exchange. According to the coalition, to create a nationwide HIE, “Healtheway and the EHR/HIE Interoperability Workgroup formed a strategic partnership to enable technology systems, public and private providers and health information organizations (HIOs) to have access to more efficient testing.”

The coalition says it create a set of functional, technical and test specifications that enable plug and play connectivity to simplify EHR and HIE development. This allows for the sending and receiving of encrypted health information over the Internet, the looking up and retrieving of patient records, and production of a patient record summary which reduces variances and implementation-specific customization. Vendors have agreed to bring their products for testing according to these specifications and participating states have agreed to promote the value of EHR and HIE products certified in the program.

“This project is a perfect fit for our public mission as a non-profit certification organization,” Alisa Ray, CCHIT’s executive director, said in a statement. “Our experience in preparing organizations to certify products, coupled with the availability of highly automated testing, will help health IT companies get their technology to market quickly and prepare provider and HIE participants to share information more efficiently.”
 

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