CCHIT: Interoperability breakthrough near

The healthcare industry is on the verge of a breakthrough in interoperability as "plug and play" capability becomes more than a dream, according to a whitepaper published by the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT).

This is true in two important areas, the group says: the ability of healthcare providers to send and receive care summaries within their clinical workflow, and their ability to look up patient records seamlessly across disparate electronic health records used by other healthcare organizations, not by going to a website.

National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari has sought consensus in establishing interoperability, and this progress comes from the work of a powerful private-public coalitions--the EHR/HIE Interoperability Workgroup (IWG), a New York eHealth collaborative; and Healtheway, the public-private partnership that operates the eHealth Exchange (formerly known as the Nationwide Health Information Network Exchange).

The paper examines efforts to promote interoperability at the federal, state and local levels, though its authors say there's still plenty of work to be done.

Among them, IWG has been determined to promote these "plug and play" capabilities by eliminating optionality and variability in the use of national standards. Today it comprises 19 states, 20 EHR vendors, and 22 HIE suppliers. The vendors agreed to adopt these technical specifications for their products. After IWG partnered with Healtheway, the organizations selected CCHIT to test and certify these products.

IWG landed a grant from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's Exemplar HIE Governance Program, and committed to addressing issues such as patient matching and querying provider directories.

In March, CCHIT launched pilots of compliance testing and a certification program. When complete, it will offer the following certifications:

  • HIE Certified Direct: EHR systems using the Direct protocol to send health information over the Internet
  • HIE Certified Community: EHR and HIE systems that allow sharing across care delivery communities
  • HIE Certified Network: Systems that allow HIE-to-HIE sharing and connection to the eHealth Exchange.

ONC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services plan to stress interoperability in 2013. Beyond Meaningful Use Stage 2 criteria, the $548 million awarded to states for health information exchanges has been the biggest move to promote interoperability, according to the paper. The "plug and play" capability is expected to speed the spread of HIEs through reduced cost and physician willingness to participate.

CCHIT also is creating a framework to help ACOs in their technology purchases. ONC, meanwhile, is providing support and guidance for HIE governance, though FierceEMR's Marla Durben Hirsch has argued that its framework needs to be more sturdy.

To learn more:
- find the CCHIT whitepaper (.pdf)

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