CCHIT Revamps Development Model, Plans to Add Staff

Monday, the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT) announced it has revamped both its criteria development model and committee structure in an effort to set the stage for testing of a broader range of electronic health products.

CCHIT has been under pressure to expand the scope of certification to address more specialized needs, says Mark Leavitt, chair of the CCHIT. The April 23 announcement included new initiatives to develop criteria for EHR products specifically designed for children’s health, for emergency departments, and for cardiovascular medicine.

A private not-for-profit organization begun in 2004 by three health information technology trade associations, the CCHIT is under contract to the Department of Health and Human Services to develop certification criteria for EHR products, and then to test products based on those criteria and ultimately award certifications. About 80 ambulatory setting products have been certified.

The criteria and testing for these new certifications will be developed via a new “modular certification” approach: so-called foundation criteria (Interoperability, Security, and Basic Supporting Functionality) will apply to all certifications  (ambulatory, inpatient, and emergency); higher level criteria (e.g. specific populations such as children) and specialty endorsement criteria (e.g. cardiovascular medicine) are at the top of the building block model.

“We are looking for things to share between the different certifications we are going to do,” explains Leavitt.

Given adoption of this new certification model, CCHIT leaders felt they had to revise the workgroup structure and add paid staffers. The primary objective here is to make better use of the time given by volunteers, whose efforts determine the speed at which criteria are developed. That effort is now being placed on the back of what Leavitt referred to as “sustaining” work groups, whose members will be required to meet for two hours every two weeks. “Some volunteers have been spending eight hours a week,” Leavitt explained. “We know that is not sustainable.”

Donald Schoen, CEO of ambulatory EHR provider MediNotes, who serves as chairman of the Electronic Health Record Vendors Association (EHRVA), agrees with Leavitt that “there is only so much bandwidth to go around. As we broaden certification out to the enterprise and then network levels, volunteers will burn out.”

One questioner asked Leavitt whether the CCHIT has any plans to develop a criterion which would measure the “productivity” of a product. He answered that products are measured against the time it takes them to run particular test scripts, and that the result is logged in under the aegis of “usability,” which, he continued, measures productivity “in a rough way.” Leavitt acknowledged that the productivity of a particular piece of software is not now accurately measured, but that the CCHIT had not “completely closed the door on that.”

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