Whatever happened to due diligence in EMR purchases?

Hold the phone, certification may be changing yet again.

Government Health IT reports this week that the federal Health IT Policy Committee is recommending that EMR vendors label their products as certified to help customers meet "Stage 1" of meaningful use. Stage 1, of course, refers to the 2011 requirements to earn Medicare and Medicaid bonus payments for meaningful use of EMRs. Stage 2 begins in 2013 and Stage 3 kicks in two years later. (At this point, HHS has not defined requirements for the latter two stages.)

The HIT Policy Committee made its recommendations to the Office of the National Coordinator, which is developing a temporary certification program for Stage 1 until it's able to get its plan to accredit certifying bodies up and running. The idea, according to Government Health IT, is to "ward off potential confusion among buyers about whether systems they are considering will qualify them for the incentive program."

To me, it sounds like committee members are responding to the many "guarantees" vendors are making that their products will help customers meet meaningful use and thus qualify for federal subsidies. These guarantees are nothing more than marketing ploys, since it's the user, not the vendor, that has to achieve meaningful use. There's nothing wrong with a little consumer protection, but looking through the marketing hype really should be part of any customer's due diligence.

As I said in this space last week, "Don't forget the 'meaningful' and 'use' parts of 'meaningful use.'" Yes, the law requires a "certified" EMR product to access the federal dollars, but as the term implies, you still have to use the EMR in a meaningful way. Don't forget that little detail. - Neil