CCHIT making progress in EMR certification, adoption

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ORLANDO—Progress is being made in accelerating the use of EHRs with the launch of both ambulatory and inpatient product certification programs, according to Mark Leavitt, MD, PhD, chair for the Certification Commission of Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT), and Alisa Ray, executive director of CCHIT, during an interactive session “CCHIT Town Hall: The Latest on CCHIT Initiatives,” presented at the HIMSS 2008 conference.

“How successful have we been?” Leavitt questioned in his opening remarks to attendees. “Approximately 72 percent of physicians believe published certification standards have an impact on EHR adoption and 66 percent of CIOs are aware of certification—55 percent of which plan to require it in their purchase decisions.” Leavitt said this data were collected through real-time impact surveys.   

Leavitt added that in the first year of implementation, 44 percent of ambulatory vendors were certified and more than 35 percent for inpatient.

“Basically this is a grass roots volunteer effort,” he said. Leavitt added that CCHIT’s accomplishments have only been possible due to volunteer efforts from a variety of sources. “It is not just the federal government that is taking the initiative here—it also is the states that are getting involved now as well.”

By certifying products on the market, CCHIT hopes to reduce the risk of investing in an EHR, to make sure it will be interoperable and to protect the privacy of patient records. “We’re also working to encourage various healthcare players to offer financial assistance to physicians for adopting EHRs, with some notable successes to date,” he said.

These successful financial incentives for EHR adoption have been in both the pubic and private sectors, he said.

For the public sector, that includes the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) demonstration project, CMS PQRI measures, Stark/AKA safe harbor for donation of certified EHRs, as well as state eHealth initiatives. For the private sector, that includes new EHR adoption incentives announced by health plans. Also, 9 percent of payors now offer EHR adoption incentives and several physician liability insurers offer a 3 to 5 percent premium discount for certified EHR implementations, he said.

Leavitt also discussed the areas of strategic growth areas in the future for CCHIT.

“When we think about the nature of certification in 5 or 10 years, it is going to be focused on expansion,” he said. “The long-term story is to find new areas in which the market needs a catalyst.” He said this will mean evolving and broadening the stakeholder base; continuing to expand into new domains; refining existing domains; increasing the efficiency of criteria development; developing greater sophistication in inspection and testing; and creating enhanced outreach and communications to the ambulatory market. “We need to move very strongly toward technology testing and interoperability. As we move forward, we plan to develop interoperability testing tools that are free, and open-sourced,” he said.