The federal health information technology coordinator's proposed certification rule signals that the agency wants to better ensure that electronic health-record systems perform as promised.
Last week, HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT proposed a two-pronged approach to achieve that goal. It will increase transparency for EHR systems marketed to providers and encourage EHR certifying bodies to raise their minimum standards.
“This will create another level of accountability,” said Cletis Earle, chief information officer at St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital, Newburgh, N.Y. “We're all challenged by lack of functionality to hit these (meaningful-use) measures,” he said. “It's because these systems are not truly ready.”
Providers say it's common for them to purchase a “complete” EHR, certified as complying with the meaningful-use program, only to find that they have to pay extra to achieve the program's goals.
The certification program is supposed to give clients assurance that what they're buying can perform the tasks required by the federal meaningful-use program. Certifying groups inspect EHRs in a controlled environment, then check to see if they work in the field.
But some buyers say the certified EHRs often do not perform as promised, and action is needed to ensure that they do. Earle said that when the second stage of the meaningful-use incentive program rolled out, St. Luke's Cornwall was using Meditech Magic, version 5.66. According to the government's EHR list, the program is certified for the “view, download and transmit” function, which allows patients to access their data and transport it elsewhere.
Earle said, however, that the software didn't actually have that capability. So he either had to buy a module from Meditech or a third party, or build one. Earle chose to buy one, which cost “tens of thousands of dollars.” Meditech did not respond to a request for comment.