Grassley sends wake-up call to health IT vendors

As featured in CMIO

Call it a checkup of sorts. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, sent letters to 31 U.S. hospitals asking about their experiences in implementing health IT under the $19 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The Senator said he aims to ensure the “effective and efficient use of taxpayer money” in implementing health IT.

If your institution got a letter from the Senator, you’re asked respond to 11 specific questions and requests no later than Feb. 16. It seems that Sen. Grassley’s gotten some input already, judging by his statement that he has been made “increasingly aware of difficulties and challenges associated with health IT implementation. The reported problems appear to be associated with administrative complications in implementation, formatting and usability issues, and actual computer errors stemming from the programs themselves, as well as interoperability between programs.”

Grassley sent letters to health IT vendors regarding his concerns back in October 2009, and is still looking through their responses.

Other news stories this week plot the progress of standards and certification efforts—building blocks of any interoperable systems—as organizations work to get their programs in sync with meaningful use requirements and the growing number of international health IT initiatives.

The Certification Commission for Health IT (CCHIT) will update both of its EHR technology certification programs to conform to the interim final rule of meaningful use recently released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Applications will begin to be accepted Feb. 12. Approximately two dozen vendors that have already been certified under CCHIT’s latest programs will be offered incremental testing at no fee to close any gaps.

Health Level Seven (HL7) has changed its name to Health Level Seven International to represent its focus on the development of global health IT standards. The change reflects the adoption of HL7 in many countries and the growing number of HL7 standards being published as international standards by the ISO. And with the European PACS market expected to grow by about 5.9 percent annually through 2015, according to market research firm GlobalData, standards that enable systems integration will be ever more important.

Nonprofit standards development organizaton Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission has developed a set of draft criteria related to the Health IT for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act that will be incorporated into each program’s criteria when federal regulations are finalized. EHNAC is also developing draft criteria for health information exchange (HIE) entities and has been facilitating industry collaboration on the content, it says.

How is your hospital doing with ARRA initiatives, interoperability efforts, HIE projects or other front-burner health IT issues? You can email me