Looking for that EMR seal of approval

October 1, 2006

For many physicians-especially those in small practices-investing in electronic medical record (EMR) systems can be daunting. Many are reluctant to sink a large sum of money into a system that may not meet their needs. Now, the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology has taken steps to ease physicians' concerns: It has created benchmark criteria for ambulatory EMRs and certified products from 20 vendors. Last year, CCHIT, a private consortium, received a 3-year, $2.7 million contract from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to develop criteria for evaluating and certifying EMRs. So far, CCHIT has developed about 340 standards to assess how well an EMR system functions, keeps information secure, and interacts with other systems to, say, receive laboratory results. For 2006, vendors must meet 152 of these standards for certification and can use the remaining standards as a roadmap for improvements to their products.

For many physicians-especially those in small practices-investing in electronic medical record (EMR) systems can be daunting. Many are reluctant to sink a large sum of money into a system that may not meet their needs. Now, the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology has taken steps to ease physicians' concerns: It has created benchmark criteria for ambulatory EMRs and certified products from 20 vendors. Last year, CCHIT, a private consortium, received a 3-year, $2.7 million contract from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to develop criteria for evaluating and certifying EMRs. So far, CCHIT has developed about 340 standards to assess how well an EMR system functions, keeps information secure, and interacts with other systems to, say, receive laboratory results. For 2006, vendors must meet 152 of these standards for certification and can use the remaining standards as a roadmap for improvements to their products.

It's hoped that the CCHIT seal of approval will make it easier for physicians to decide whether to implement EMR systems in their practices. Of course, checking for certification should be just the first step. It "doesn't mean that if [physicians] pick a certified product that they are guaranteed to find the right product for their practice," Steven Waldren, MD, assistant director of the American Academy of Family Physicians' Center for Health Information Technology, told American Medical News (8/7/2006).

For a list of CCHIT's certified products, visit http://www.cchit.org/.