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Workgroup Co-Chair Says HIT Certification Process Is 'Going Well'

Last week, the HIT Policy Committee, which is advising the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services on the details of the $20 billion health IT stimulus programs, made several recommendations related to the certification of e-health products. Marc Probst, a co-chair of the HIT Policy Committee's certification and adoption workgroup, provides some insight.
Last week, the HIT Policy Committee, which is advising the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services on the details of the $20 billion health IT stimulus programs, made several recommendations related to the certification of e-health products. Marc Probst, a co-chair of the HIT Policy Committee's certification and adoption workgroup, provides some insight."I think it is important that we are clear that our workgroup (and the entire HIT Policy Committee) provides recommendations to Office of National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC)- so my comments reflect recommendations, not necessarily what ONC will ultimately decide," said Probst in an e-mail interview with InformationWeek. The ONC's leader, Dr. David Blumenthal--who's national health IT czar--reports to HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

"Our recommendations suggested that as a temporary measure, that current CCHIT Certification, combined with an additional gap certification if required to meet meaningful use (which has yet to be determined, but should be ASAP) would meet the HHS Certification Requirement," said Probst, who is also CIO at Intermountain Health, which operates several healthcare facilities and hospitals in Utah.

"CCHIT is obviously welcome to continue certifying products as they do today, providing a market service in certifying the broader capabilities of EHRs. However this broader certification is not a requirement," he said.

The HIT Policy Committee workgroup recommends that in addition to the comprehensive EHR systems that CCHIT has traditionally evaluated and certified, modular, open source, and in-house developed software should be eligible for HHS Certification.

HHS Certification will be important because healthcare providers will need to use qualified health IT products in "meaningful" ways in order to be eligible for the stimulus legislation's financial rewards, which kick in starting in 2011.

"We recommend that ONC looks at a process for allowing additional certifying organizations for HHS Certification," said Probst. "Timing for this is not yet defined and I assume is subject to the law making processes."

As for all the effort that HIT Policy Committee members, other advisors and Blumenthal 's team have been putting in to thoughtfully vet health IT certification and other concerns, that's starting to pay off, said Probst.

"I think the process is going well. It is all moving very fast and it has taken a lot of time from each of the committee members. Their dedication and abilities are awesome," Probst said.

"With the' meaningful use' and certification recommendations, there is a 'guide' that should be helping vendor, physician and hospital organizations begin to focus in on the priorities and process requirements to achieve the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act incentive payments," said Probst.

"More clarity is needed, and I am sure there will be changes to both 'meaningful use' and certification as ONC completes the process," he said. "But I think the general direction will remain consistent with the recommendations made."

"David Blumenthal, [advisor] John Glaser and the ONC team have worked very hard to understand the recommendations and help the workgroups in gathering required information for the decisions we have been making," said Probst. "Overall, the process has been expedited, but within the constraints, it has been thorough."