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Trade groups launch effort to certify EHR products

Trade groups launch effort to certify EHR products

A consortium of trade organizations has launched an initiative it hopes will establish a certification process for electronic health record (EHR) products. Such a process could go into effect next year.

Following an initial meeting July 13, the trade groups announced the initiative during the Health and Human Services Secretarial Summit on Health Information Technology held July 21 in Washington, DC. Prime movers for the effort are the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), and the National Alliance for Health Information Technology (NAHIT).

Linda Kloss, CEO of AHIMA, said the initiative arose because prospective purchasers need help determining which EHR products are truly valuable.

"There is anecdotal evidence that some products are being sold under the guise of electronic health records that have very limited functionality," she said.

Kloss noted that certification is not intended as a substitute for the buyer's own research. Rather, it would serve as an adjunct.

"The notion behind product certification is that it will build on (existing standards) and develop some baseline criteria for conformity," she said.

Kloss conceded that such certification could be cause for nervousness, particularly among manufacturers, who could end up losers if certification criteria are too stringent. Vendors of quality products, however, stand to benefit if the initiative weeds out less useful products, particularly if sellers of those products are making misleading claims.

"The vendors we've talked to are okay with it, grudgingly," Kloss said. "As long as the standard is baseline-addressing basic functionality-it will allow the market to innovate and the vendors to differentiate themselves based on features and functionality."

She added that reputable vendors probably would not be adversely affected by such an initiative. While specifics of the initiative have yet to be established, Kloss said she hopes it will have teeth.

"It potentially could have," she said. "The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs Medicare reimbursement, is interested in doing some kind of financial incentive."

Scott Wallace, president and CEO of NAHIT, said the Department of Health and Human Services has indicated it stands strongly behind such certification and may use it as a guideline in future federal purchasing decisions.

The certification process had not yet been developed, Kloss said. She was not certain whether organizers will contract with a certifying organization to apply the standards. That will be determined during the coming months. It also is uncertain whether certification will be mandatory or advisory.

"We can't know how the payers might use this," she said. "I think it initially might be used as an incentive for some new reimbursement."


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