Will health IT buyers focus on certification

Just installing a CCHIT Certified software package doesn't mean you've fulfilled meaningful use. You actually have to use it, meaningfully.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

The first press release bragging software is "CCHIT Certified" hit my desk this weekend.

It's from NextGen, and relates to a sales contract with the Mount Kisco Medical Group. The group, which has 230 physicians in a variety of specialties, decided to automate with NextGen software.

Good for NextGen, but the headline here is the certification. CCHIT was recently approved as a certification authority by the Department of Health and Human Services, but it has been conducting certification tests right along, first under a non-specific "Preliminary ARRA" designation and now under a registered mark of its own.

Before 2009, CCHIT had been angling to become the sole authority for certifying that health IT worked. This was based on its own criteria, and it had support for this from the Bush Administration HHS, although the government put no money behind the effort.

Passage of the HITECH Act, part of the stimulus, led to a year-long struggle over defining certification standards, resulting in the definition called "meaningful use." Through most of this process, CCHIT was on the sidelines, alongside critics who argued that its birth as an industry-sponsored group meant it could not be unbiased.

Now the battle is over. The standards have been promulgated. CCHIT has even been approved as a certification authority, alongside the Drummond Group of Austin, TX.

It's now a marketing battle between Drummond, CCHIT, and whatever other group or groups might be approved, to see who can get the business of vendors.

In that battle, the NextGen release is an important artifact. It matters to this vendor in their marketing. Presumably it wants this to matter to customers and prospects as well.

But does it?

Fact is, meaningful use criteria and certification are different subjects. Or they were until HHS finalized the former and signed on groups like CCHIT as certificate authorities.

Certification, under the original CCHIT scheme, meant software performed certain functions. It was about speeds and feeds. It you filled in all the check boxes, you were certified. This was convenient for vendors.

Fulfilling meaningful use requirements is about getting results from the software, not just installing it. It means doing certain things that show value, that can induce organizational change. The onus is not on the software, but on the installation. Ultimately it's on the customer.

Just installing a CCHIT Certified software package doesn't mean you've fulfilled meaningful use, in other words. You actually have to use it, meaningfully.

So how much does the logo CCHIT Certified matter? ?How much should it matter?[poll id="34"]

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