HIMSS EHR Association airs Stage 2 concerns, launches new collaborative

By Mike Miliard
11:21 AM

As it expressed trepidations about the ability of vendors and providers to reach Stage 2 meaningful use specifications, the HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association (EHRA) announced the formation of the EHR Vendor Communications Workgroup – the result of a collaboration between the association and the Regional Extension Center Vendor Selection and Management Community of Practice (REC VSM CoP).

The new collaboration comes close on the heels of a letter from EHRA, a trade group composed of nearly 50 vendors, responding to the federal Health IT Policy Committee's proposals for Stage 2 meaningful use. The group has petitioned the committee to extend the timeline by which providers must meet the criteria.

[See also: New leadership steps up at EHR association.]

The new vendor workgroup seeks to ensure that providers' health IT adoption results in improved efficiencies, usability, healthcare quality, clinical decision support and better outcomes. Made up equally of representatives from the REC VSM CoP and the EHR Association, the group will work toward the development of best practices for communications, system evaluation, implementation, and support.

"Our work with the REC VSM Community of Practice on the new communications initiative will help us coordinate our efforts to the ultimate benefit of our customers," said Epic Executive VP Carl Dvorak, chairman of EHRA.

The association's vice chair, Charlie Jarvis, VP of healthcare services and government relations at NextGen, added, that "this collaboration will lay the groundwork for more consistent, efficient processes across EHR Association member companies, the RECs, and even other HIT companies who, we hope, will support our collective efforts on behalf of providers to better manage this complex effort."

The launch of the workgroup comes just as EHRA has aired concerns about preliminary Stage 2 meaningful use proposals.

[See also: Panel begins work on Stages 2 and 3 of meaningful use requirements.]

In particular, the trade group wants to ensure the Health IT Policy Committee's regulatory schedule allows sufficient time for software developers and providers to safely develop, implement, and train users on a new software release.

In its letter, EHRA urged the panel to focus on lessons learned from Stage 1 – focusing more on increasing Stage 1 percentages than adding new criteria, and limiting new quality criteria to those specialties that were not included in Stage 1.

"We had more companies supporting this work than on any earlier public comment effort," said Jarvis. "We clearly recognize the critical importance of getting this right – not only for software developers but, more importantly, for the thousands of provider organizations that are working to achieve meaningful use."

In preparing this collaborative response, the association relied on its workgroup structure, which ensures that representation from both enterprise-focused companies and ambulatory-only EHR suppliers, is balanced.

"This is a process that we've used in the past to engage as many member companies and, through them, their customers who reviewed our comments and provided feedback," said Charlene Underwood, director of government and industry affairs at Siemens Medical Solutions and chair of the EHRA workgroup. "We hope that the Policy Committee will consider our suggestions in this broader context as we work together to establish achievable objectives and measures that truly encourage adoption and use of interoperable EHRs."

"While we have shared our concerns as software developers and on behalf of our customers who gave us input as EHR users, we are very encouraged by announcements that were made after several meetings with ONC representatives during HIMSS that they are considering how to correct the timing issue," said Dvorak. "We believe that a successful Stage 2 will focus on building on Stage 1 capabilities and lessons learned, and recommend that we all concentrate on those key initiatives that can be implemented broadly and deliver the most benefit for taxpayers' investment in health IT."

The EHR Association's detailed comments on Stage 2 meaningful use proposals, as well as its cover letter summarizing these recommendations, is available at www.himssehra.org.