The Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology, which has a federal contract to devise a system for certifying the capabilities of electronic medical records systems for ambulatory care, announced Wednesday it is ready to begin pilot testing of its proposed criteria and inspection methods.
The criteria have been posted at the Chicago-based not-for-profit organization's Web site, cchit.org. The deadline for receipt of applications from vendors to participate in the pilot testing program is Dec. 16.
About six to nine vendors of EMRs for ambulatory care will be accepted into the pilot testing program, according to Mark Leavitt, CCHIT chairman, with two or three vendors accepted in each of three product categories -- EMRs by vendors that sell enterprise-wide software systems to hospitals, systems marketed to medium-sized outpatient medical groups of 10 physicians or more and systems targeting smaller physician practices with fewer than 10 doctors.
"What we're doing in this pilot is validating our criteria and validating our process," Leavitt said. "We want to cover the spectrum of products out there."
Leavitt said the pilot testing will include review of documentation and written attestation by vendors that their products have certain essential functions, as well as hands-on review of product functionality, most likely via Internet-based demonstrations, Leavitt said.
Three jurors will be assigned to each product. Jurors will be drawn from a pool of about 40 to 50 volunteers and 18 CCHIT commissioners, Leavitt said. A juror panel likely will consist of two clinician informaticists and a technical specialist. One of the things jurors hope to learn during the pilot phase is just how long it will take to pass judgment on a product.
"Some people think it will take about two days, while others (think) about two hours. We're going to find out," he said The goal is to have the pilot testing done by February, Leavitt said, "So we hope to have live testing beginning in March."
Jurors for what Leavitt called "production testing" will be drawn from volunteers within the medical informatics community at large.
No applications are being accepted at this time from vendors to have their products tested for certification, Leavitt said. The announcement for application of vendor testing will be announced later.
So that no vendor is given an unfair advantage by being in the first round of certification, CCHIT intends to take all comers in the first batch of testing and release the results at the same time. Testing of subsequent applicants' products will be performed on a quarterly basis, he said. Estimates of the number of EMR products on the market range into the hundreds, but it remains to be seen how many vendors will seek certification in the first round.
"There could be some surprises, but I really don't think we'll get 200 in the first quarter," Leavitt said. But if that happens, "The fall-back is it will take longer to test them all. It would be nice for a lot of them pass and have that many products."
In September, the Office of the Coordinator of Health Information Technology at HHS announced CCHIT had been awarded a $2.7 million contract to develop IT certification criteria and methodologies. Pending subsequent congressional action, the contract could be extended for a total of $7.5 million over three years, with an additional $1.2 million authorized for a fourth year. The contract calls for CCHIT to evaluate other clinical IT systems, with the next round of testing to focus on inpatient EMR systems in 2006.
What do you think? Write us with your comments at [email protected].