Coalition Steps Up to Test HIT Interoperability

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Amid criticism by House Republicans that Meaningful Use criteria have done little to break down the barriers preventing easy exchange of health data among providers, a public-private coalition is announcing plans to offer interoperability testing for health information technology (HIT).

The public-private partnership of “states, public agencies, federally-funded health information exchanges (HIEs) and HIT companies” has selected the nonprofit Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) to test HIT systems, including electronic health records (EHRs), and certify that the systems can indeed reliably transfer health data both within the organization and to entities outside it.

According to the press release announcing the testing program, it will enable health data sharing for more than half of U.S. patients and their providers.

The lack of existing infrastructure for electronic sharing or radiology reports and images in many parts of the country was one reason HHS cited for lowering its original proposed Meaningful Use Stage 2 criteria for access to radiology images and reports through patient EHRs from 40% to only 10%.

On October 4, the agency drew flack from four leading House Republicans for this and other similar decisions the representatives said had weakened the Meaningful Use incentive program to the point where little real progress had been made on ending the information silos health care providers operate within.

The CCHIT testing program, while voluntary, could help answer the House Republicans call for restoring the requirement for interoperability testing to the Meaningful Use criteria. And it has at least one fan in Farzad Mostashari, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, who was cc’d on the Republicans letter.

"Today's announcement brings together several activities supported by [Office of the National Coordinator] over the past years: a core set of national standards, an Accredited Certification Body, the public-private partnership that has emerged from the Nationwide Health Information Network Exchange, and the convening power of New York and other State Health Information Exchange grantees,” he stated in the press release. “We look forward to working with this consortium to continue progress on interoperability and secure health information exchange, and to reflect what is learned in national standards as necessary.”