Health Information Technology Lobby Group Rallies Support for Certification Group; Critics Question Group’s Ties
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society has asked HHS to give the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology authorization to determine which electronic health records systems can receive funding from the economic stimulus package, the Washington Post reports. In a letter dated April 27 to HHS officials, HIMSS officials wrote, "To ensure continuity, recognize CCHIT as the certifying body" of EHRs.
Some health care industry officials have raised issue with giving CCHIT the responsibility of certifying EHR products because of the commission's associations with various IT and health care companies, the Post reports. CCHIT has ties with HIMSS, which played a role in its inception in 2004 and is now managed by Mark Leavitt, the former chief medical officer of HIMSS. In 2005, the commission received a three-year, $7.5 million contract from HHS.
According the Post, Internal Revenue Service tax documents show that HIMSS technically paid Leavitt's salary through 2008, which was reimbursed by CCHIT. However, Leavitt said he is accountable only to CCHIT's board members and he "was not supervised by HIMSS." He said he expects CCHIT will be "the body or one of several certifying bodies that are recognized" by HHS in part because it already is tasked with certifying health IT products. According to Leavitt, some of the commission's critics are IT vendors who have failed to meet CCHIT's standards.
The Post reports that the provision in the stimulus package that requires health care providers to demonstrate "meaningful use" of health IT has become an issue because federal officials, IT systems vendors, and physicians and patient advocates have not been able to reach a consensus on the definition of meaningful use. Under the provision, providers must demonstrate meaningful use of health IT in order to receive Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for adopting the technology (O'Harrow, Washington Post, 5/21).
In related news, National Coordinator for Health IT David Blumenthal on Wednesday at a Brookings Institution seminar said the incentive payment and financial assistance provisions in the stimulus package will play a "critical" role in the success of health IT adoption, CQ HealthBeat reports. Blumenthal said, "If we can show physicians and hospitals that they can be better at their basic work with this technology than they could ever be without it, if we can show the value that it provides day in and day out in the provision of patient care, if we can show that same thing to the American public, then I think the money will be a sweetener but not a determinant of adoption" (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 5/20).