Certification of EHRs to begin pilot studies by next summer

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At its initial meeting on Tuesday in Chicago, a new commission combining the resources of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), and The National Alliance for Health Information Technology called the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT) made the initial moves to establish a voluntary electronic health record product certification process.

The commission brings together national leaders, drawing from the provider, vendor, and payer communities as well as from government, standards development, and other key stakeholders.

The commission agreed on the following:

  • Overall goal: To accelerate the adoption of robust, interoperable healthcare information technology while delivering value to providers, vendors, and purchasers and payers.

  • Initial scope: Certification of electronic health record (EHR) products for use in ambulatory care settings such as physician offices.
  • Timeline: A first-step certification process ready for pilot implementation by the summer of 2005. Second- and third-step certifications would be progressively more thorough and would follow in subsequent years.
  • Certification roadmap: The commission will develop and publish a forward-looking roadmap of certification plans for several years into the future.
  • Workgroup formation: Involvement and consensus across the industry are key to the success of the commission. As a result, workgroups will be formed to address various aspects of certification of EHR products once the commission completes its assessment of current industry efforts to establish standards for electronic health records.

"It was extremely gratifying to see such a powerful consensus emerge from the commissioners at this, our very first meeting," said Mark Leavitt, MD, PhD, commission chair and HIMSS medical director. "Our organizational structure, initial scope, and timeline have all been set, and we are looking forward to defining actual tasks and workgroups at our next meeting on October 25th."

Through voluntary certification of products, the commission said it hopes to reduce the risk of IT investment by healthcare providers, facilitate the offering of IT adoption incentives by payers and purchasers, and ensure interoperability of healthcare IT products with emerging local and national health information infrastructures.

"The first meeting of the CCHIT revealed the excitement and necessity of establishing appropriate certification criteria for electronic health record technology - a critical step in assuring the compatibility and interoperability of health care information," said Douglas E. Henley, MD, executive vice president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "Importantly, the commission has agreed to focus on EHRs in physician offices and the ambulatory health care environment. This is vital because this is where most people receive their care each and every day."

Reed V. Tuckson, MD, who is senior vice president-consumer health and medical care advancement for United Health Group, said "The commitment of a broad and influential set of stakeholders in this process should attract attention and support at a critical moment in this field's history."

The current roster of commissioners includes:

  • Suzanne L. Delbanco, PhD, executive director, The Leapfrog Group
  • C. Martin Harris, MD, CIO, Cleveland Clinic Foundation
  • Douglas E. Henley, MD, executive vice-president, American Academy of Family Physicians
  • John Hummel, senior vice president, Information Systems, and Corporate Chief Information Officer, Sutter Health
  • Sam Karp, director, Health Information Technology, California Healthcare Foundation
  • Charles Kennedy, MD, vice-president of Clinical Informatics, WellPoint Health Networks Inc.
  • Graham O. King, strategic advisor, McKesson Corporation
  • Mark Leavitt, MD, PhD, commission chair and medical director, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
  • Jane B. Metzger, vice president, First Consulting Group
  • Susan N. Postal, vice president, Health Information Management Services, Hospital Corporation of America
  • Wes Rishel, research director, Gartner, Inc.
  • John Tooker, MD, executive vice president and CEO, American College of Physicians
  • Reed Tuckson, MD, senior vice president, Consumer Health and Medical Care Advancement, United Health Group
  • Andy Ury, MD, CEO, Physician Micro