Orlando conference will host straw poll on EHR

By Bernie Monegain
12:00 AM

As more than 20,000 healthcare IT professionals gather at the 2004 HIMSS Conference Feb. 22-26, the topic that's likely to get the most talk time is the electronic medical record.

Pat Wise and her colleagues on the EHR Collaborative were grappling with the complexities of turning electronic medical records from concept to reality long before President George W. Bush mentioned it in his State of the Union Address on Jan. 20.

Wise, director of EHR initiatives for HIMSS, was in San Diego at the time of the president's call for an electronic medical record. She and about 50 other members of the HL7 EHR Special Interest Group spent days in meetings, hammering out the final details of a functional standards model. They emerged with a model ready for review prior to a 30-day ballot period in March.

Meanwhile, the group has organized a straw poll at the HIMSS conference to help point out and address any outstanding issues before the official ballot.

"Following the HIMSS conference, this model will go out for a formal vote," Wise said. "If we hear there's one particular aspect or one function that is not quite right, we'll have time to adjust it."

"We want a positive vote because it will help guide the industry forward," she said.

Straw polling is taking place at the HIMSS Marketplace and also after each education session Monday through Thursday.

The official ballot in March is open to all HL7 members.

HL7, which stands for Health Level Seven, is a nonprofit standards group, accredited by the American National Standards Institute.

HL7 established an EHR special interest group in 2001. The goal is to establish standards for EHR that will make implementation and use effective for all involved - vendors, systems developers, consultants, integrators and public and private health care organizations.

The best outcome of the March ballot would be approval, said Wise. That would mean a draft functional standard for trial use and then work would continue on other standards - one standard at a time.

Besides HIMSS, the EHR Collaborative includes:

• American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)

• American Medical Association (AMA)

• American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA)

• College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME)

• eHealth Initiative (eHI)

• National Alliance for Health Information Technology (NAHIT)

The standards work has been accomplished by the HL7 EHR Special Interest Group mostly via teleconferencing. The working group, which numbers 50 on some of the calls, has had two face-to-face meetings.

The challenge of the work group has been achieving its aggressive timeline and doing so by working over great distances, said Wise. "This is not the primary job for anybody," she said. "This great effort has been accomplished by volunteers."

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