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HIT Panelist Bashes CCHIT as Legacy Vendors' Puppet

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, July 15, 2009

The commission charged with certifying health information technology is unduly influenced by legacy vendors whose concern for their own welfare is threatening the success of the national HIT initiative, a healthcare analyst told a federal workgroup Tuesday.

Brian Klepper, a panelist at Tuesday's HIT Policy Committee Certification/Adoption Workgroup hearing in Washington, DC, said the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology is led by people with strong ties to legacy software vendors and their trade group, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

"CCHIT was founded by HIMSS. The executive director came from HIMSS. The chairman of the board is president of HIMSS, and it is dominated by a vendor mentality," he said. "CCHIT gives HIT legacy vendors inappropriate influence over policy and it threatens to facilitate a national HIT approach that would fall short of healthcare reform's goals. Whether or not it is actually conflicted, it certainly gives the appearance of being conflicted in a way that would not be tolerated throughout most of the private sector."

Klepper suggested that the CCHIT's role in defining certification rules be reduced, and that other certifying entities be brought in to perform those functions. He also suggested that CCHIT's executive leadership "should be replaced."

That idea didn't sit well with CCHIT Chairman Mark Leavitt, who was sitting a few feet from Klepper on the same panel.

Leavitt, the former CMO at the HIMSS, denied the assertion that legacy vendors are running the show at CCHIT. However, he said it would be unrealistic to exclude vendors from the process.

"Some people have said ‘You are certifying products. You should not allow any vendors to participate in your program or be on board,'" Leavitt said. "That is like saying ‘Let's create a system to test cars and not have anyone who's has ever designed or built cars on the board.' If you exclude the vendors, you probably exclude two-thirds or three-fourths of the people who've been involved in HIT."

He also bristled at Klepper's conflict of interest charge. "I've got 25-30 years in healthcare IT. Those who sit on public stage and impugn the integrity of an individual should at least–before they do it–talk to some people who know that person," Leavitt said.

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