To CCHIT or not to CCHIT is the question

No single vendor or certification process can build an IT infrastructure that both enables innovation and distributes it universally.

DICOM image from Apple ComputerCCHIT stands for the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology.

Its mission is to accelerate health IT by certifying solutions. (Picture from Apple.)

Critics like Joseph Conn and Fred Trotter say it has become counter-productive, and suggest the Obama Administration either insist on reform or scrap it.

The problem may lie in the nature of its work, which is to certify that a solution does its job effectively. That is, it looks at IT systems in isolation, rather than as parts of a larger whole.

This approach ends up favoring proprietary giants that can create integrated solutions over open source processes that may just have a piece of the solution.

Thus, when CCHIT certification becomes a requirement on hospital IT bids, a do-it-yourself approach using open source parts is ruled out.

While WorldVista, descended from the VA's VistA system, is certified by the CCHIT, it's certified as a point solution, not as a part of an integrated, open source approach.

It's obvious that both proprietary as well as open parts are needed for effective health IT. How else would you accomodate something like OsisriX, a medical imaging system which is both open source and only works on the Apple Macintosh?

Breakthroughs can come from anywhere and it's in the nature of medicine that ways will be found to accomodate them. But in making that happen you move away from a truly integrated system accessible by patients and country doctors.

No single vendor or certification process can build an IT infrastructure that both enables innovation and distributes it universally.

But standards can. Open standards, offered royalty-free as they are through the World Wide Web Consortium, can do that.

That is my model for what the CCHIT can and should become. If it doesn't want to do that, it should either go away or be ignored.

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