Is Three a Crowd?

At least three groups are looking to establish a commercial seal of approval for health information exchanges and regional health information organizations.

The Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT) launched a pilot program earlier this year that seeks to certify HIEs. Meanwhile, officials in New York are studying the feasibility of accrediting the state’s RHIOs. And in August, the Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC) said it will devise a program to accredit RHIOs and HIEs.

It will be months before some of the programs are fully operational, but early signs point to a high level of collaboration among the groups.

“What we are trying to do here is not be duplicative,” said Lee Barrett, EHNAC’s executive director.

However, the participation of multiple entities is good only if their work proves synergistic, said Marc Holland, a program director at research firm Health Industry Insights. The issue is whether the groups can develop compatible standards and requirements, he added.

Different paths
CCHIT’s testing and certification program for HIEs will likely be the first to go live, based on its scheduled October launch date. It will initially concentrate on security and interoperability.

While that program prepares for its debut, New York officials are considering options for evaluating and accrediting the state’s RHIOs, which play a governance role in the statewide health information infrastructure. Officials say accreditations could help assure stakeholders about the capabilities of individual RHIOs.

For its part, EHNAC aims to develop an accreditation program for HIEs, RHIOs and other groups that promote data sharing among multiple stakeholders by spring 2009, Barrett said.

The program will go beyond the operational aspects of security and privacy to examine participants’ technical performance, business practices and organizational resources.

“We are looking to really provide…a broader platform and to answer some of the big questions out there regarding trust, ” Barrett said.

Participants will provide evidence that they meet the commission’s accreditation criteria, and once EHNAC receives that evidence, the commission will schedule a site review to validate the self-assessment.

Common ground?
EHNAC also plans to cross-reference its accreditation criteria with those of CCHIT. For example, it will map CCHIT’s privacy and security criteria against its own. Barrett said the objective is to have CCHIT accept EHNAC accreditation and vice versa. That way, an HIE that has successfully passed CCHIT’s security test would not have to repeat the assessment to obtain accreditation with EHNAC.

Barrett said EHNAC has begun meeting with representatives of CCHIT, but a spokeswoman for CCHIT said the organization’s discussions with EHNAC have yet to become formal.

“As we have with many health care industry groups, CCHIT has had informal discussions with these folks to update them on our work, but we have no formal business relationship with EHNAC nor have we begun any substantive discussions about coordinating programs,” she said.

EHNAC could also coordinate efforts with New York’s accreditation program. Barrett said state officials assessed accreditation bodies and identified EHNAC and three other organizations as potential resources.

“We plan to follow up with all four of the organizations we identified, including EHNAC,” said Rachel Block, executive director of the New York eHealth Collaborative. “However, at the moment, we are mainly focused on establishing our own requirements so it is not possible to determine whether and how well EHNAC’s program might fit for us.”