Project to produce EHR testing tools

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The Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology and Mitre will orchestrate an open-source development program to produce free tools for evaluating whether health information technology products comply with the commission’s criteria for certification.

The two nonprofit organizations announced that they will work together on the program, which they both will fund. They are counting on software vendors to contribute code and expertise, said Dr. Mark Leavitt, CCHIT’s chairman.

Automated tools will likely hold down the cost of testing, allow for faster testing and result in higher-quality testing, he said. Those outcomes will be increasingly important as CCHIT’s certification criteria become more numerous and sophisticated. Eventually, he added, “it would be out of the question to do [the testing] manually.”

Leavitt said he believes software companies are considering building such tools for their own use or for use by others in the industry. It’s in the public interest, he said, to have one toolset built collaboratively and openly for all to use.

Once the tools are available, he said, vendors can use them in the course of developing new electronic health record (EHR) systems and other software, so that CCHIT compliance is built into products from the start.

The partners’ first tool will verify products’ compliance with the standard for continuity–of-care documents that EHRs send and receive. The documents, which provide summaries of patients’ health status, medications and so on, are becoming widely used. The testing tool is expected to be ready next year.

Leavitt said the collaboration between CCHIT and Mitre makes sense because “we aren’t a software development company. That’s not one of our competencies.” Mitre has had a lot of experience with open-source software development, he added.

A research and development organization with many clients in the federal government, Mitre will handle project management for the effort.

National health IT organizations created CCHIT with funding from the Health and Human Services Department. The organization tests health IT products for compliance with standards for interoperability, security and functionality. Its goal is to reduce health care providers' risk in acquiring clinical IT systems.

About the Author

Nancy Ferris is senior editor of Government Health IT.

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