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CCHIT Remains the Only Certifying Body for EHRs—But Not for Long

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media, August 18, 2009

At the last HIT Policy Committee Certification/Adoption Workgroup hearing in July, there was a very heated debate about whether the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology should be the sole certification authority for electronic health records, one of many certifying agencies, or banned from participating, in its current form, due to conflicts of interest.

The concern stems from the fact that CCHIT's leadership has strong ties to legacy software vendors and their trade group, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

Some IT executives never understood why there has been so much drama on the topic. CCHIT has been around for years, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services endorsed it in 2006, and most of the major medical societies have endorsed it as well, says John Haughom, MD, senior vice president of clinical quality and patient safety at PeaceHealth, a seven-hospital system based in Bellevue, WA. "If they don't like CCHIT then work to revise it to make it better," he says.

The mood was quite different, however, at the Health IT Policy Committee meeting held this past Friday where the panel approved the Certification/Adoption Workgroup's recommendations, including that multiple organizations should be deemed certifying agencies for electronic heath record systems, as opposed to a single organization. The committee recommended that the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in coordination with the Office of the National Coordinator, should create an accreditation and monitoring process for the HHS certifying agencies. In the interim, however, CCHIT will lead the way in mapping out the certification criteria based on the HIT Policy Committee's recommendations outlined in the "meaningful use" matrix.

CCHIT, for its part, has already done a lot of work on that front. It submitted a proposal prior to the August 14 meeting to the policy committee, the certification/adoption workgroup, and National Health IT Coordinator David Blumenthal that mapped out a certification program that would launch in October. The proposal outlined how its certification program corresponded directly to the HIT Policy Committee's recommendations on meaningful use.

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