Will meaningful use go down CCHIT rabbit hole?

The question is whether the industry groups which supported the last conservative Administration are going to now step up to the plate and walk their talk, or use their influence to undermine what they claim is their cause. So far self-interest is winning.

Meaningful use, one of the vaguest terms in the HITECH Act under which doctors and hospitals must automate, is about to be defined.

Hearings have been held. Debate among experts has been intense.

A lot of great things have been written about it, but the key question is no mystery.

Will CCHIT certification be required?

CCHIT, a creature of the HIMSS vendor group, currently controls certification of Electronic Medical Record systems, and wants its certification to control meaningful use. It has lined up its allies (including consumer groups) to retain that power.

Trouble is, as John Chilmark writes, if HIMSS wins its fight then control over defining health IT passes from the public sector to the private sector, which could use it to define out innovation, as it has in the past.

As John Halamka notes, there is a reason why the phrase meaningful use is vague. He predicts, "Each year, the definition of meaningful use will be expanded, setting the bar higher and requiring more features and more data exchange."

That's important. One thing we can be certain of is that, over time, health IT technology is going to change. If you lock in details now, or if you let some private group define meaningful use in terms favorable to current technology, you lose the chance to adapt to change.

Conservatives are constantly harping on the idea that, if regulation is to exist, it must be simple, straightforward, and light. Focus on results, and let the market direct the rest.

In this case they are absolutely right. The question is whether the industry groups which supported the last conservative Administration are going to now step up to the plate and walk their talk, or use their influence to undermine what they claim is their cause.

So far self-interest is winning.