CCHIT’s Educational Program Can Ease the Pain of Certification

By Cindy Atoji

April 29, 2008 | Although the ambulatory and inpatient EHR certification process is an “open book test,” says Alisa Ray, executive director of The Certification Commission for Healthcare IT (CCHIT), every year the bar is raised with updated certification criteria. This year that includes new programs launching in July to certify systems for child health, cardiovascular medicine, and emergency department requirements. Certification of networks (health information exchanges), another new area, is planned for release in October.

Many applicants are able to successfully navigate the potentially complicated certification process on their own, but Ray and Alicia Bader, CCHIT certification program director, believe that newly initiated CCHIT educational programs can help guide applicants more efficiently and effectively through the testing process. The next interactive, online Web seminars will be held May 27, 28, and 29, and focus on the 2008 certification areas. (To register, go to Ray and Bader spoke with Digital HealthCare & Productivity about the upcoming CCHIT educational programs.

DHP: What is the purpose of the CCHIT educational programs, and how successful have they been?

Bader: They’re geared toward those in the vendor community who have the responsibility for leading their companies through the certification process. After completing the program, participants should be equipped to evaluate product readiness for testing and understand the application and inspection process. Using readily available EHR certification materials, the

Certification Commission’s staff walks applicants through each aspect of the testing process. Test scripts are discussed, including new interoperability, functionality, and security criteria. Applicants for inpatient product certification will have the opportunity to examine criteria for CPOE (Computerized Physician Order Entry) and eMar (Electronic Medication Administration Record).

DHP: What’s the biggest predictor of success for attaining certification?

Bader: We found that the biggest predictor of success is whether organizations practice and prepare the test scripts ahead of time. Our inspection process is completely transparent. Everything the vendors need to demonstrate to our juries and inspectors is out there, but if they don’t spend the time to prepare, and bring their internal development team together to look at the test and ask, “Can my product do all these things?” they won’t be successful.

These courses walk participants through a readiness check—how to tell if your organization or product is even ready to begin certification. That might mean familiarization with the criteria and the test scripts; do you have all the functionality that’s detailed in our testing process? But also, [providing] a timeline and a project plan to think about how you would engage other staff on your development team, including when they would come in, and what the different preparation steps are. 

DHP: What are some of the most common questions?

RAY: Many of the questions we receive pertain to topics that are already are in the handbook or certification agreement—but there’s a lot of material there. As much as we try to make it a black and white process, there are still some criteria that could be left to interpretation, so there may be questions around that. With interoperability, a lot of times we’ll get questions about how the lab testing works, and of course, we’ll have new content in 2008, so I’m sure we’ll get more questions with some of our newer criteria.

DHP: Interoperability seems to be a big focus. What do vendors need to know about this?

RAY: In areas like interoperability, the requirements are more stringent. This year, we’ll be adding the ability to transfer a patient’s summary. Vendors that have certified products in all three domains—ambulatory, inpatient, and emergency department—can apply for enterprise EHR certification by demonstrating interoperability between those systems. For network or health information exchange, the first test scripts are available for public comment, and health information exchanges can apply for participation in network certification pilots.

DHP: Is LAIKA—the EHR testing tool—part of the online education program?

Bader: Yes, it definitely will be part of the May session that we hold.  LAIKA will be a tool that vendors can use to practice interoperability of the CCD (Continuity of Care Document). So they’ll be able to generate a test file and practice receiving and displaying that file as well as determine if there are any errors in that document. So they will need to learn how to use LAIKA so they can practice. In the actual test environment itself, CCHIT will be sending that test file, and they will have to demonstrate that they can accurately receive and display it, and then they will send a test file to validate the expected results.

DHP: What else do I need to know to sign up for the upcoming Webinars?

Bader: The upcoming dates for the next education program will be May 27 through 29. Applications will open through May 22 for this program, and the 2008 final criteria, test scripts, handbook, and agreements will be published on May 20. These are the course materials for the sessions; they are made publicly available to everyone via our Web site.

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