The first of two public forums in a nearly $500,000, federally sponsored effort to develop consensus definitions for five key terms in healthcare information technology is set for Jan. 16, 2008, from 9 a.m. to noon in the auditorium of the 137-bed National Rehabilitation Hospital, Washington, according to the National Alliance for Health Information Technology.
Chicago-based NAHIT is coordinating the definition effort as a subcontractor for defense and IT consultant BearingPoint, which was awarded the contract in October by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS.
The key healthcare IT terms under scrutiny are electronic medical record, electronic health record, personal health record, regional health information organization and health information exchange.
In November, the contractors selected 30 healthcare IT experts and assigned them to two work groups. Heading the records work addressing EMRs, EHRs and PHRs are Chairman John Haughom, a physician and the senior vice president of clinical quality and patient safety at PeaceHealth, Bellevue, Wash.; and as co-chairman, Donald Mon, vice president of practice leadership, American Health Information Management Association, Chicago.
Overseeing the networks work group developing definitions for RHIOs and HIEs are Chairman William Bernstein, partner and chairman of the healthcare division of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, New York; and Co-Chairwoman Pamela Matthews, a nurse and senior director of business information systems, with the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.
To start, NAHIT solicited information from the public on what the definitions should include. Work on incorporating those suggestions in the definitions is already under way, according to Jane Horowitz, vice president and chief marketing officer of NAHIT.
"By the first public forum, the Jan. 16 meeting, we will have probably a good solid work product around the electronic health record," Horowitz said. "We want to make sure we get as much comment as we can from as many of the various stakeholders we can," she said. "We want to reach out to as broad a (group) as we can. The broader we can go out and vet the work that we are doing, the closer we'll actually get to that consensus in healthcare."
From the work of the two committees so far, "We have a real sense of need for this," Horowitz said. "It clearly has legal implications, contractual implications and how the terms are used in developing regulatory policy and legislation." Definitions development is focused on answering questions about each term, she said. "It's more than, for lack of a better term, a Webster definition. It's how we use it. What are the standards in an EHR? How is data entered? Who has control? How is it corrected?
"HHS, CMS, ONC (the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology), the Stark rules, all have a variation of a definition of what an EHR is," Horowitz said. "I believe one of the things that ONC wants is a consistency within those organizations. Therefore, it is extremely important that we get more than the 15 people on the work group, we get a broader group of stakeholders, to provide us comment."
Horowitz said there will be two parts to the public comment phase of the definition development program. The public meetings are only one part. The second will be an open comment period.
"When we have a document we can share, we will publish it online and allow people about two weeks to provide us comments, capture all of those comments and then go through those and reconcile (them) and become part of the public record of the work we are doing," she said.
A second public meeting is planned sometime during the annual HIMSS convention in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 24-28, 2008, though the precise date has not been confirmed.
The contract calls for the work to be completed by March 28, 2008.
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