A coalition of electronic health records vendors is urging the HIT Standards Committee to focus its efforts on achieving implementation of data standards that the committee already has recommended to federal officials, rather than reopening decisions already made. The committee, authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, advises federal officials on standards, implementation specifications and certification criteria for the electronic exchange of health information.

"We recognize that standards must go through a process from initial development to full implementation," the HIMSS EHR Association noted in written testimony to the committee's implementation workgroup on Oct. 29. "They must pass several hurdles, including weighing cost of implementation against value to the customer, assessing value relative to other potential product features, meeting customer needs and government mandates, and achieving stability and market readiness.

"Beyond these steps, there is the need for implementation in products in accordance with good software development practices and pilot testing. This process can take three or more years. The Association's Interoperability Roadmap lays out many of these steps in detail. Thus, although we agree that not all adopted HIT standards are ready for 2011 implementation, many are ready, as reflected in the recommendations of the Standards Committee."

To speed and simplify implementation of key standards during the next four months, the industry needs clarity and vendors need a clear understanding of how to implement the standards designated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the HIMSS EHR Association noted.

The association recommended a series of coordinated actions by the HIT Standards Committee, Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise initiative, National Institutes of Standards and Technology, Health Information Technology Standards Panel, and the CONNECT interoperability initiative.

These actions would include collecting the best open source tools to facilitate implementation; offering technical support; documenting precisely exceptions to certain capabilities; reopening applications to the January 2010 Connectathon to additional EHR systems; and organizing a second Connectathon in April or May. The early-year Connectathon is a warm-up to the Interoperability Showcase at the annual HIMSS Conference. Vendors must participate in the Connectathon to be in the Showcase.

The association also continued to support adoption of a single content standard--the Continuity of Care Document rather than the Continuity of Care Record--for the exchange of clinical summaries among providers. "The extra costs associated with supporting multiple content standards run directly counter to principles of health care reform and to the ARRA stimulus funding objectives to improve quality and access as well as reduce costs," according to the testimony. "Proposals to maintain multiple clinical summary exchange standards are a step backward from the progress that has been made to date."

Text of the testimony is available at himssehra.org/ASP/statements.asp.

This article can also be found at HealthDataManagement.com.

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