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CCHIT Now An Authority On Electronic Health Records

Apr 5, 2008
Just as an FDA certification increases consumer confidence, the Healthcare Information Technology industry is making headway toward the creation of product standards. The Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT) acts as a stamp of approval on Electronic Health Records (EHRs) or Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). CCHIT certification allows organizations to identify EHR systems that have met the agreed-upon standards, as well as undergone unbiased inspections and rigorous testing.

CCHIT certification is meant to provide a certain level of protection for the buyer by making sure that an EHR system meets certain functionality and security requirements, and can reasonably integrate with other systems. With nearly 350 criteria in each area, EHRs must meet robust performance requirements to pass certification. This gives physicians and providers peace of mind that the product they are purchasing is functional and safe, and that it will provide a higher quality of care for patients. Providers who are overwhelmed by the amount and variety of EHR systems that are available can now seek products with the CCHIT seal as a prerequisite to their decision making process.

According to some skeptics, an EHR that is CCHIT compliant can also offer providers the same peace of mind that a certified EHR gives. What's the difference between the two? A certified product indicates that a vendor met all the necessary functionality, interoperability and security requirements, and paid a $28,000 administrative fee to CCHIT to undergo the certification process. A compliant product indicates that a vendor also developed its product to meet the necessary requirements, but may not have paid the administrative fee to receive the benefit of CCHIT's official endorsement.

CCHIT evaluates EHR products based on 350 criteria in the following categories:

Functionality:

Systems must meet an extensive set of functional requirements, (e.g., scheduling, encounter management, demographics, etc.)

Interoperability:

This assures that systems from different vendors can seamlessly exchange clinical, financial and administrative data.

Security:

This addresses how effectively the product protects the information stored in it. For example, backup, authentication, access control, etc.

While certification does demonstrate a degree of financial esteem and indicates a vendor's financial viability, a compliant system may be all some providers are seeking. Whether an EHR system is CCHIT certified or compliant, it still is prudent to apply due diligence before committing any resources.

Industry experts offer the following tips for health center teams that are considering purchasing an EHR in 2007:

Do your research. Review trade publications, ask questions at industry conferences that feature vendor exhibits.

Think about hiring a consultant. While this can sometimes be costly, a third person brings an objective perspective to your search. Depending upon his/her expertise, he/she may ask questions that you and your team have not considered.

Consult with your Information Technology (IT) staff to think through any operational considerations. For instance, how much storage space for patient records can you accommodate? How often will back-ups be required? Are you equipped to handle these issues?

Ask for references. Don't take a vendor's word for it. Talk to customers that are actually using the product.

Nuesoft Xpress released its EMR in April 2006, and is currently developing it to meet CCHIT certification criteria.
About the Author
Jennifer McDuffee writes for Nuemd , a provider of medical practice management software. This article appeared previously in NuesoftXpress eNues .
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