EHR/HIE Interoperability: How Do We Get There?
(Editor's Note: This guest blog was written by Alisa Ray, executive director, CCHIT.)
The advent of health information exchanges (HIE) has added a new level of complexity to the challenges facing both healthcare providers and health information management professionals. Even as we work to establish interoperability among EHRs within individual health systems, we also must facilitate interoperability among myriad EHR systems and HIEs.
High costs, technical differences, and long wait times for interface development are barriers we must surmount in order to share data among healthcare providers and across state lines. Fortunately, the job just got easier thanks to a public-private partnership of states, public agencies, federally funded HIEs and HIT vendors that was announced just last month. The partnership has established a program to test and certify the ability of EHRs and other health IT to reliably transfer health data within and across organizational and state boundaries. The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT), the nation's oldest and most experienced HIT certification body, has been selected to carry out the testing and certification process.
The effort is being led by the EHR/HIE Interoperability Workgroup (IWG), a New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC)-led consortium of states and vendors; and Healtheway, the newly formed public-private partnership of the eHealth Exchange, a network of organizations representing hundreds of hospitals, thousands of providers and millions of patients across the country.
The coalition comprises 15 states, 37 technology vendors, and 34 HIEs representing more than 50 percent of the U.S. population. They've created a robust, highly automated testing program to verify whether a system is capable of exchanging health information with many other systems. The coalition harmonized a set of functional, technical, and test specifications that enable true plug-and-play connectivity to simplify EHR and HIE development. The program will test the ability to send and receive encrypted health information over the Internet, look up and retrieve patient records, and produce a tightly constrained patient record summary that reduces variances and implementation-specific customization. These capabilities will enhance the ability of providers to meet their goals for coordinating patient care.
Vendors have agreed to bring their products for testing according to these specifications, and participating states have agreed to promote the value of EHR and HIE products certified in the program. Testing will ensure that providers' EHR software has the capability to connect to their local HIE and enable communities and states to share patient health information.
As the compliance testing body, CCHIT will certify that the interfaces between the HIT and HIEs are consistent across multiple states and systems. We also are an Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) authorized certification body and an accredited testing laboratory for EHRs. We are collaborating with AEGIS.net on the testing software, which is being developed under an open source license.
This project is a perfect fit for CCHIT's public mission as a nonprofit certification organization. Our experience in preparing organizations to certify their HIT products and our highly automated testing protocols will help health IT companies get their technology to market quickly and prepare provider and HIE participants to share information more efficiently.
The coalition announced its plans for the program at the NYeC Digital Health Conference Oct. 15-16, and webinars are planned for later in the year for the HIT and provider communities. More details are available at http://www.hiehitnews.org/