HITSP was funded by a $3.3 million contract from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS to promote interoperability of healthcare information through the collaborative use of accepted data standards and implementation specifications.
That contract was set to expire Jan. 31, but HHS issued a “no-cost extension” to the contract through April 30, according to HITSP Chairman John Halamka, a physician who is chief information officer at 621-bed Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and at Harvard Medical School, Boston.
HITSP had its most recent meeting Jan. 25 and approved its 2009 work on “harmonization” of health IT standards before delivering them to the ONC.
In late December 2009, the not-for-profit Certification Commission for Health Information Technology found itself in somewhat similar circumstances as HITSP. That's when ONC head David Blumenthal announced during a public meeting that he would not exercise his statutory authority under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the stimulus law, and “keep” the federally supported CCHIT as a recognized certification body for electronic health-record systems.
CCHIT, like the HITSP, was created at the behest of the Bush administration's first ONC leader, David Brailer. CCHIT was provided a $7.5 million contract to run an EHR testing and certification program. CCHIT Chairman Mark Leavitt said his organization will apply to again receive federal recognition as a testing and certification organization once HHS publishes formal rules on how it will run its recognition process under the stimulus law. Leavitt, in a recent interview, expressed confidence CCHIT would pass muster with the ONC rules and has begun accepting applications to test and certify vendors' EHR systems against preliminary criteria released by the ONC and CMS in December 2009.
Meanwhile, in an e-mail letter to HITSP members, Halamka wrote to thank those who attended the Jan. 25 meeting and to say the organization may once again be pressed into federal service—and receive federal funds—once the ONC issues an official request for proposals, or RFP, for healthcare standards work.
Halamka said he wanted to “reaffirm our commitment to stay engaged as we await the ONC RFP” and listed various ONC grant programs on his blog.
Halamka said the HHS contract extension through April will enable HITSP “to have a presence at the upcoming HIMSS conference (scheduled to run March 1-4 in Atlanta) and support the quality reporting activities being demonstrated in the Interoperability Showcase there.”
In addition, HITSP will host “informational conference calls” over the next few months and its Foundations Harmonization Subcommittee set a schedule of three meetings, the first being today at 10:30 a.m. ET, with two more Feb. 8 and Feb. 17 to wrap up its work.
“HITSP is not done; the lights are on,” said Liz Neiman, an ANSI spokeswoman. HITSP and healthcare IT interoperability are “a tremendous priority for ANSI,” Neiman said. “Absolutely, we'll be going for any RFP that's coming out. What's really important for us is to keep the momentum going.”
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