CCHIT finally gets foot in ONCHIT certification door

The standards should be simple for most programs to meet. The problem is that there is now going to be a rush to the door by vendors seeking certification, a backlog of certification requests that will have customers nervous for months.

The Certification Commission for Health IT (CCHIT), created by the HIMSS trade group to seek a monopoly on certifying gear to meet government standards under the Bush Administration, finally got approval to certify, along with the Drummond Group of Austin, Texas.

The news comes just one month before the start of the 2011 fiscal year, under which meaningful use will qualify for that sweet, sweet stimulus cash. And the government press release announcing the decision pointedly noted other applications are under review.

It has been a long, strange trip for CCHIT, with harsh words exchanged. But the destination has at last been reached.

Of course, CCHIT hasn't been sitting on its hands. For years it has been creating its own "interim" standards and trying to certify software as meeting its own criteria. Until now this has been unofficial, but companies whose gear met the tests CCHIT created last year will probably breeze through the process now.

Breezing through the process is important, because six months of meaningful use must be proven during fiscal 2011, which ends next September, in order to qualify for up to $44,000 in subsidies. The final standards are less about feature sets, however, and more about interoperability with standards like HL7.

In some ways the whole certification fight turns out to be much ado about very little. Vendors have had a lot of notice to concentrate on interoperability, on exchanges of data with pharmacies, imaging centers, and other hospitals, and most have been doing just that.

In other words, the standards should be simple for most programs to meet. The problem is that there is now going to be a rush to the door by vendors seeking certification, a backlog of certification requests that will have customers nervous for months.

Expect a lot of antacid to be eaten, in other words, but also expect things to turn out well in the end.

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