NIST Begins Rolling Out EHR Performance Testing Program

04/19/2010 – PC Healthstop Blog

There are hundreds and hundreds of Electronic Health Record software packages in the marketplace that claim to be capable of allowing you to establish meaningful use, but how do you know if those claims are true? So far there has not been an impartial, independent way to determine the truthfulness of a vendor’s claims.

Earlier this month, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) rolled out the first part of its testing infrastructure, created in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), vendors, implementers, standards organizations and certification bodies. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) designated NIST as the agency responsible for determining if EHRs meet HHS standards for functionality, interoperability and technical benchmarks.

According to Bettijoyce Lide, NIST’s senior advisor, program coordinator for Health IT, speaking to Information Week Magazine, the goal is to establish a health IT infrastructure that provides a high level of security to American’s electronic medical records. “New test methods, along with testing infrastructure, certification, security and usability help ensure that the health information of Americans is exchanged safely, securely, reliably, and only to appropriate sources,” she said.

NIST created the test procedures and infrastructure based on the Interim Final Requirements (IFR) published by HHS on January 13th of this year. If those requirements change, NIST says it will change its test procedures accordingly. Plans call for tests to be rolled out in four waves.

Fifteen test drafts have been rolled out so far, each keyed to a specific requirement as spelled out in the IFR. As an example, test criteria 170.302(b) relates to maintaining an up-to-date problem list, a key meaningful use requirement. The test will determine if the program will “enable a user to electronically record, modify, and retrieve a patient’s problem list for longitudinal care in accordance with (1),the standard specified in §170.205(a)(2)(i)(A), or, (2) at a minimum, the version of the standard specified in §170.205(a)(2)(i)(B).”

Other tests will evaluate a product’s ability to maintain allergy and medication lists, calculate body mass index (BMI) and track among history. Additional tests will be rolled out over the coming weeks.

To keep stakeholders informed about the full extent of NIST’s activities in the health care certification arena, NIST has set up a special website with links to all of its major activities: infrastructure creation, test methods, conformance testing, and testing and support. The overall program can be used by vendors to determine if their products will meet standards before it submits them for certification, and will be used by approved certification bodies to test those product offerings.

This NIST program puts into place one of the final pieces of the certification puzzle. It will enable you to determine if a product which claims to be certified will actually perform the functions it says it can perform, because it has been tested and proven to meet the standards set forth by the HITECH Act and the definition of meaningful use.

Rich Silverman
PC Healthstop Blogging Team

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