As the industry waits breathlessly for federal guidance on EMR certification, no organization is closer to the edge of its seat than CCHIT. As such, no individual will be more interested in reading that anticipated document than CCHIT Executive Director Alisa Ray. With the impending resignation of CCHIT Chair Mark Leavitt, and no word on his replacement, Ray will be responsible for leading the ultra-important organization through the choppy waters ahead. To learn more about how CCHIT is operating in today’s hazy climate, healthsystemCIO.com editor Anthony Guerra caught up with Ray.
… as much as I think I could do more, the trustees and the commission really would like a physician in this role.
I think we need to have a voice in the policy world and be involved with the development of Stages 2 and 3 of Meaningful Use.
… when we first got started, looking back at 2006, we took a one-size-fits-all approach, and we heard from the provider community loud and clear that in fact, no, that was wrong.
GUERRA: We all know that Mark Leavitt has resigned from CCHIT and the search is on for his replacement. Are you interested in the position?
RAY: You know, Mark and I have been a great team in building this organization, and I’m certainly willing and capable of stepping up and doing more. In fact, I’d tell that to our staff too. With Mark leaving, we’re all going to be step up and do more. But as much as I think I could do more, the trustees and the commission really would like a physician in this role, and I’m sure you can see how a physician thought leader — who has actually practiced medicine and used the EHR tools — is probably more right for that. So I’m not a clinician, but can I still contribute and develop a strong partnership and step up and take more of a leadership role? Sure, I will, but I accept that and agree that we need a physician as a chair of the commission.
GUERRA: Beyond looking for an M.D., is there any other important qualification that comes to mind?
RAY: I think the person really needs to have credibility on many levels because we have so many stakeholders. Ultimately, they have to be credible with the provider community to make sure that the certifications are meaningful, and I think they would need to be a really strong spokesperson. I think we need to have a voice in the policy world and be involved with the development of Stages 2 and 3 of Meaningful Use. I hope we can continue to contribute to that and other discussions.
GUERRA: Where is CCHIT in its development of specialty-specific EMRs?
RAY: I think whether it’s a medical specialty, special care setting or a special population, we have found it’s incredibly important to have a specific set of EHR requirements. In fact, when we first got started, looking back at 2006, we took a one-size-fits-all approach, and we heard from the provider community loud and clear that in fact, no, that was wrong. So many of these groups have come to us and talked with us and explained why there are nuances. They have told us that we need to have specialty add-ons or specialty systems.
At a recently held commission meeting, we presented the second draft criteria and first test scripts for our expansion areas, which include dermatology, long-term and post acute care and behavioral health. So those were all constituents that felt the one-size-approach didn’t work for them. And we also talked about expansion areas too — oncology and ob-gyn; those are areas where we’ve talked with leaders in the field, and the commission said we should try to expand.
So that’s all something that just happened recently. I think HHS and ONC will find the same thing that we have — that you must pay attention to the needs of specialty groups. In fact, they have already. I’m sure, over time, they’ll refine those rules and it will get better.
GUERRA: What advice could you offer CIOs on how they should be handling themselves in the coming months, as it relates to certification?
RAY: I’d say try to keep up with things that are coming out and try to read the source documents yourself. We try to read the language directly from the government ourselves. We don’t like to get it diluted.
It’s a really, really hard time. I think if they haven’t adopted already, they’re looking at a tough curve and will have to make some difficult decisions. I think they should try to follow our site certification program and start doing a gap analysis for themselves with the technology that they have in place already. They need to ask: Is it with a certified vendor? Talk to their vendors. Are they likely to become certified? And if they have some gaps, determine if our site certification program, as it’s modeled, might be helpful in getting their whole institution qualified. All provider organizations are different, depending on their level of resources or how far they are along in the journey towards adopting technology, and I think each one of them will have to make those assessments themselves.