Scope of EHR certification could be narrowed following feedback

The day after the Certification Workshop, a public hearing held to gather feedback on the EHR meaningful use certification program, recommendations have been made that could result in huge changes to the program, according to a report by Health Data Management.  

Making changes for the better
Paul Tang, M.D., the Health IT Policy Committee vice chair, said that health care providers and IT vendors at the hearing felt overwhelmed by the expectations in place under the current certification system. When the three-hour discussion ended, he addressed the concerns of those in attendance and offered some possible solutions. Tang said that he is hoping to change the program in such a way that it will be a "more streamlined, more coordinated, and more timely process, as well as have ongoing feedback so that it can be continuously improved – at least in the regulatory environment."

The suggested solution is to approach the program from a more "holistic" standpoint, and to observe the EHR certification process "end-to-end." The goal is to make the process run more smoothly for everybody, and to solicit feedback from stakeholders throughout so as to always be improving. 

Narrowing the focus 
Tang went on to say that the three areas the program will focus on will be narrowed down to interoperability, clinical quality measures, and privacy and security. The idea is that by changing the rules so that the aforementioned three factors are the only ones subject to mandatory guidelines, it will solve the problem of vendors and providers feeling overwhelmed.   

The hope is that by zeroing in on the issues most important to ensuring health care providers are able to adopt and effectively use EHR systems, those striving toward that goal will have an easier time getting there. During the hearing, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston John D. Halamka, M.D., opined that certification should not depend on whether or not an organization is able to test each possible type of data, resulting in reaping a trove of information that is a mile wide and an inch deep. 

Helping vendors help providers 
One of the things hindering progress, according to feedback at the hearing, is that vendors are working within a "compressed timeframe," according to a report by Clinical Innovation and Technology. Vendors said that due to the relatively short amount of time in which the software is being developed, they are not left with enough time to ensure that the quality of the product is where it needs to be. Specifically cited were difficulties in maximizing usability for health care providers and producing programs that have functions requested by individual providers. 

Chief software architect at SRSsoft Joseph Geretz said that since the program began, his company has not had time to do much else aside from try to provide the industry with the software needed to adopt EHRs. 

"Our customers ultimately bear this burden in terms of higher costs and lost productivity, as the program – with its tight deadlines – trumps our focus on ease of use and productivity," he said. 

As more in the industry work toward the common end of meaningful use, hearings such as this will be an integral part of the process.