Brailer turns up heat on product certification

February 16, 2005

Certification of information technology products moved to the front burner last year, with the formation of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT) dedicated to establishing a product certification process.

Certification of information technology products moved to the front burner last year, with the formation of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT) dedicated to establishing a product certification process.

Just how hot this topic has become was illustrated by the presence at the HIMSS meeting of Dr. David Brailer, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Department of Health and Human Services, who gave an introduction and overview of CCHIT at an education session.

Brailer stressed that the certification effort is not about doctors using computers or data flying around the country.

"This is about collaboration," he said.

The commission, formed last July, is an alliance of the American Health Information Management Association, HIMSS, and the National Alliance for Health Information Technology, which are providing the initial funding and staff.

Through voluntary certification of products, the commission hopes to achieve several things:

· reduce the risk of IT investment by healthcare providers

· facilitate the offering of IT adoption incentives by payers and purchasers

· ensure interoperability of healthcare IT products with emerging local and national health information infrastructures

"Right now, we can't tell the difference between products that meet certain minimum standards and those that don't," Brailer said.

Brailer argued that everyone benefits from product certifications: physicians, hospitals, vendors, investors, entrepreneurs, payers, and patients. Patients should not be allowed to believe that the computers and technology their doctors use necessarily have provisions to ensure their safety and security, he said.

"There is no reason not to do this," he said.

Brailer expects certification to be a tonic for sluggish physician acceptance of the electronic medical record.

"One of the factors suppressing physician demand for the EMR is product risk. They don't know what to buy," he said. "Product certification will take much of the risk out of purchase."

Brailer compared lurking resistance to the idea of product certification with DICOM's experience.

"Few people realized 15 years ago that DICOM would be as important as it has become today to the movement of images," Brailer said. "A lot of people wondered why we needed it. It was only obvious to the originators, who could clearly see the problem."

Ambulatory EMR is the initial focus, with the first step of certification due this summer.