A set of some 1,000 conformance criteria related to 130 electronic health-record functions developed by the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based health information standard-setting organization, Health Level 7, has received the blessing of the American National Standards Institute.But the true impact of this may depend on whether the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology will require vendors to adhere to those standards in order to gain certification of their products.
The EHR functions are said to affect users and include medication history, orders, clinical decision support, and privacy and security support. The conformance criteria are meant to be used as a reference for the purchasers of EHR systems and the vendors who develop them.
"It looks like motherhood and apple pie," said Dick Gibson, the chief medical information officer for Seattle-based Providence Health and Services Oregon region. "That by itself is helpful, but whats really important is if CCHIT adopts the standards into its criteria for certification because that would stabilize the market and encourage investment" in EHRs.
Health Information Technology Standards Panel Chairman John Halamka, a physician who is chief information officer of both CareGroup Healthcare System, Boston, and the Harvard Medical School, said that the development of HL7 criteria will still be helpful for larger hospitals and healthcare systems regardless of what CCHIT does.
"The EHR functional criteria are an important framework for the development of new products and to empower the development of certification criteria," Halamka said in an e-mail. "For hospitals and integrated delivery systems, the HL7 work on its own will be influential. For the EHR users in small to medium practices, CCHIT criteria will be very influential."