URAC sets focus meeting at HIMSS summer conference

By Bernie Monegain
12:00 AM

As URAC weighs whether it will take on the development of standards for an electronic health record, the nonprofit accreditation group has scheduled a focus group at the HIMSS summer meeting in Las Vegas on June 16 at 10 a.m.

Topics on the agenda for the focus session are: What is EHR accreditation; is it worthwhile; what are the pitfalls and positives?

URAC will also convene a research and focus group in June to determine whether the organization will take on the task of developing standards.

The research and focus group is expected to convene for the first time in mid-June 2004 in Washington, D.C. Parties interested in participating can contact Liza Greenberg, RN, MPH, URAC's vice president of Research and Standards at Research@urac.org.

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Last month Garry Carneal, president and chief executive officer of URAC, said URAC's board of directors would have the final say on whether to develop standards for an electronic health record. "Our meeting in June will help URAC to determine whether or not to go forward with EHR standards," he said.

Carneal said the board would likely make a decision at one of its quarterly meetings in 2004. "It is also possible that we will focus on another aspect of Health IT," he said.

Carneal said URAC is in discussions with HIMSS (Health Information Management Systems Society) and other stakeholders about what approach to establishing EHR standards would be best. HIMSS will be providing URAC with strategic and technical insight for URAC's research and focus group.

HIMSS has already issued a statement in support of URAC accreditation standards for an EHR.

"HIMSS recognizes the importance of and need for consistent implementation standards for the effective use of electronic health records," said H. Stephen Lieber, president and chief executive officer of HIMSS>

Pat Wise, EHR director for HIMSS, said HIMSS EHR task force is in favor of collaborating with URAC as an expert content provider on EHR standards. Collaboration would be more expedient, she said, than developing a HIMSS-specific EHR program.

The best approach to developing standards is what URAC will explore, Carneal said.

"The question is whether URAC can make a contribution by promulgating standards that help shape the direction and development," he said. "Our basic philosophy is that we want our accreditation standards to promote adoption of known best practices, but not stifle innovation in a dynamic market area. If we do go forward in developing EHR-related standards, they will likely focus first on implementation standards, rather than the structure on the EHR itself."

Carneal said URAC's standards development process can take anywhere from four months to a year.

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