EHR Association offers Code of Conduct

ONC chief gives the plan thumbs up
By Bernie Monegain
01:47 PM
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HIMSS EHR Association

Calling it a landmark move, the HIMSS EHR Association, a collaboration of more than 40 EHR companies, today released an EHR Developer Code of Conduct. 

“Representing the majority of operational EHRs in physicians’ practices and hospitals in the U.S., today, we understand firsthand the transformative power of health IT, and we offer this Code of Conduct as a reflection of our industry’s ongoing commitment to collaborate as trusted partners with all stakeholders,” said EHR Association Chair Mickey McGlynn, senior director, strategy & operations at Siemens Healthcare, in making the announcement.

ONC chief Farzad Mostashari, MD, who has been critical of some vendor practices, today gave the EHRA kudos on its initiative, especially as it pertains to patient safety.

"The commitment here is very much in line with our national plan," he said. "No customer will feel that they can’t report a patient safety event, and the vendors will investigate them, will remediate them," he said. "It’s really very positive to see the association coming together and making a statement about what we stand for. This is what we believe is the right way to treat our customers."

[See also: EHR Association, iHealth Alliance partner on patient safety.]

The Association developed the code as a reflection of its members’ commitment to supporting safe healthcare delivery, fostering continued innovation, and operating with high integrity in the market for EHR users and their patients and families, McGlynn said.

In response to a question at today's launch of the code, McGlynn emphasized that while the code was approved by the EHR Association, it became available today, and it's now up to individual companies to adopt it.

However, it did immediately draw support from Siemens.

"The release of the EHR Developer Code of Conduct by the EHR Association is an important milestone in the maturation of the healthcare information technology industry, and we at Siemens Healthcare are proud to have supported its drafting and ratification," said John Glaser, CEO, Siemens Healthcare, Health Services. "The Code of Conduct includes many elements that just make too much sense to be ignored, and it's my belief that Siemens and many players in this industry have already been adhering to many of these principles. Codifying these principles and providing a transparent way to show customers that companies are going to adopt them will help propel our industry's ability to deliver safer, more effective and more interoperable solutions."

Mostashari said at the news conference that he expects the EHRA has vendors stacked up and ready to announce adoption in the near-term.

The EHR Association’s Code of Conduct Workgroup began to work on the code early this year, and during that process they engaged with a number of stakeholder organizations to gain insights from a variety of perspectives. The group also reviewed codes of conduct or other organizations and industries.

“We reached out to the diverse set of people and organizations we work with routinely in developing and implementing EHRs,” McGlynn said. “We incorporated very useful input from provider groups, consumer organizations, commercial payers and the government to ensure that the code of conduct reflects an open and balanced set of principles. We now offer the code, which will continue to evolve in coming years, to encourage transparency and collaboration among EHR developers, as well as between EHR developers, their customers and other industry stakeholders.”
   
As Michael Barr, senior vice president at the American College of Physicians, sees it, “the code establishes firm principles that are very responsive to the issues physicians and other healthcare professionals would like addressed as they try to select, implement and optimize EHR solutions in practice.”

[See also: EHR Association pushes back against reporting requirements.]
   
He said the code addresses issues associated with EHRs that physicians care about: patient safety, interoperability, documentation, privacy and security, and patient engagement. And, as physicians feel "tremendous pressure" to adopt meaningful use and to change their practices on many fronts, the code becomes all the more important.

It's particularly critical, he said, not to contractually limit the discussion about patient safety.

EHR Association Vice Chair Leigh Burchell, vice president of government affairs at Allscripts, said the association encourages all developers to adopt the code, whether they are members or not.

“We worked closely with our member companies during the process of gaining approval of the Code across the Association. Based on the feedback so far from those companies, we believe that there will be a very positive response among our membership to the Code as an extension of their commitment to customers, prospects, employees and partners.”