I have been critical of the CCHIT certification process before. My position hasn't changed: CCHIT certification is misused and misunderstood by too many people in this business and it is driving up development costs, especially for private practice pediatricians. I don't think this is directly the fault of the organization itself, per se, but it is the practical result. I might have some input on this matter in the future, but for now, I will take a few minutes to examine some of the problems I see with the new child health criteria.
First, needs outside of pediatrics being pushed into our realm. In 2008, EHR vendors will need the following functionality:
The system shall capture patient growth parameters:
including weight, height or length, head circumference;
and vital signs including: blood pressure, temperature,
heart rate, respiratory rate, and severity of pain as
discrete elements of structured data.
That sounds great...until the last item. Severity of pain? Is that really necessary as a requirement for a pediatric office? You can't even begin to measure this subjective vital, as a practical matter, until the children reach a particular age (6? 8?) without using things like the FLACC scale (which, and forgive me if I'm wrong, I've never actually seen in regular use in a private pediatric practice). According to CCHIT itself, this is because of JCAHO requirements.
You'll note that other folks in my shoes have similar questions (look at line 7).
Is it a big deal? No, it's not the end of the world. But now, any EHR vendor who wants to focus on pediatrics is going to be forced to add the "Pain" vital when I don't know a single pediatric office that has asked for it. It will take up important space on the screen, it's another data element to track, and resources are spent on something whose impact on improved or more efficient is minimal, at best.
How about this item:
The system shall synchronize immunization histories with a
public health immunization registry according to applicable
laws and regulations.
Now, note that it says "a" public health immunization registry. So, all PCC would have to do is interface with, say, Vermont's registry, and we'd be certified? Forget that VT serves a handful of pediatricians when compared to NY or TX or CA? Don't get me wrong - CCHIT has its hands tied on this one. The state of immunization registries in this country is an absolute disaster (believe me, PCC interfaces with more of them than anyone). To make this a requirement when there is no standard among them is a mistake. As much as we want to have our registries integrated with EHRs, I think CCHIT should have chosen a standard and pointed to it instead of leaving it helplessly defined.
Finally - for now - I see some big gaps in the understanding of improved pediatric care. Where are the demands for tracking preventive care? Chronic care? Instead of ensuring that the system can indicate that the gender of each patient is unknown (<sarcasm>now THAT feature is long overdue</sarcsasm>), why not have an EHR tell you when a child is overdue for a physical? Or for a recheck? Why not interface with the Bright Futures schedule?
Why will CCHIT require, in 2009, that "The system shall capture the breast milk aliquot identifying data, amount, route, expiration date and date/time of administration" and not have any proper understanding of family mechanics (it only requires custodial information; it has no linking of siblings or families)? Talk about features missing from just about any non-pediatric system now, and we're forcing vendors to track breast milk data?