If You Want Testing For Usability, Reliability and Maintainability, Tell CCHIT
By Mr. HIStalk
I wrote weekly editorials for a boutique industry newsletter for several years, anxious for both audience and income. I learned a lot about coming up with ideas for the weekly grind, trying to be simultaneously opinionated and entertaining in a few hundred words, and not sleeping much because I was working all the time. They’re fun to read as a look back at what was important then (and often still important now).
I wrote this piece in April 2006.
I wrote an Inside Healthcare Computing column in January that lauded the work of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT). I said then that CCHIT has the clout and objectivity to become the EMR industry’s Consumer Reports. The commission only needs to broaden its emphasis beyond interoperability, functionality, and security to include areas such as patient safety and usability.
The American Hospital Association recently made a similar recommendation, asking CCHIT to evaluate basic EMR product architecture components such as usability, reliability, and maintainability. AHA wants CCHIT to worry less about interoperability between organizations and instead measure how well systems within an organization (clinical ancillary applications, for example) exchange information.
Bravo to AHA on several counts. First, AHA recognizes that CCHIT is the right group at the right time.
Second, AHA understands that RHIOs are like railroad tracks. The best way to crisscross the country is to develop standards and then have teams working from both ends, meeting in the middle twice as fast. CCHIT standards that address data management within the four walls will prepare organizations to feed the data demands that RHIOs will create. As I’ve said before, a RHIO without data-ready members is like TV cable with no programs.
Third, AHA must be listening to its member hospitals, who frankly complain a lot about IT without really helping the situation — buying products with known weaknesses, poorly managing their own implementations, and failing to rally the troops around real workflow changes. AHA is wisely (and maybe contritely) asking for help, making IT a showcase issue.
Lastly, AHA’s request comes at exactly the right time, as litanies of unsuccessful implementations cloud the sunny skies of national electronic hand-holding. Uninformed customers (not necessarily the fault of vendors) play a significant part in this nearly universal failure of products and their users to provide the lofty benefits everyone expects.
CCHIT should be proud of its work so far. This rather amazing de facto endorsement of it as the impartial overseer of a marketplace widely recognized as imperfect is good for both vendors and customers. Vendors can take the money and run today, but an environment in which the highest customer-rated product gets a six or seven on a 10-point scale is not sustainable. The market will either get better, smaller, or both.
If you agree with the recommendation that the certification process for inpatient systems should include tests of a product’s usability, reliability, and maintainability, I urge you to write to CCHIT at firstname.lastname@example.org. The more people in the industry that the commissioners hear from, the more likely they’ll take our needs seriously.
I can’t recall a time in health care where any group (government or private) has had so much hope dropped into its lap so quickly. The correct response from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and CCHIT is this: thanks for the vote of confidence, we accept that responsibility. Surely it wouldn’t be that expensive and doesn’t have to take away from the government’s interests.