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    EHR dermatology certification may not sway physicians to buy systems


    National report — New dermatology criteria from the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) can simplify electronic health record (EHR) purchasing decisions, sources say.

    But, so far, these criteria are driving few dermatologists to implement EHRs who weren't already planning to do so, these experts add.

    The CCHIT launched dermatology-specific EHR certification criteria in July. The 16 capabilities required span document management, inter-provider communication, imaging, capture of external clinical documents, and support for standard care plans, guidelines and protocols.

    Developed with input from groups including the American Academy of Dermatology, these criteria build upon the CCHIT's existing certification criteria for EHRs in ambulatory care settings, says Sue Reber, marketing director, CCHIT.

    "We are adding specialty sets of criteria to our foundational ambulatory EHR test so that these products are better prepared to meet the day-to-day needs of the practicing dermatologist," Ms. Reber says.

    EHR certification bodies include the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which uses testing criteria developed by the National Institute of Standards and Testing to certify that EHR products qualify for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) incentives, Ms. Reber says.

    To support the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) "meaningful use" objective of allowing for drug-drug and drug-allergy checks, for example, EHR products must allow capabilities such as alerts, customization and alert statistics, according to the Federal Register.

    Certifying body

    At press time, the CCHIT also was an interim ARRA certification body, offering preliminary certification. Mark D. Kaufmann, M.D., co-chairman of the CCHIT dermatology work group, added that by September's end, he expected HHS to select the CCHIT as one of probably three permanent EHR certifying groups.

    Still, Ms. Reber says, "None of the government criteria speak to specialty needs."

    She says that dermatologists interested in earning government incentives while using a product designed specifically for their needs should "start with a short list of CCHIT-certified dermatology products that also have ARRA certification."

    With hundreds of EHR packages available, she says, "It will help narrow the field. That's been one of the difficulties for physicians — to make some selection" among myriad options.

    However, other sources say the CCHIT dermatology criteria probably won't sway many dermatologists to adopt EHRs who weren't already planning to do so.

    Dr. Kaufmann advises dermatologists that, because ARRA incentives will be difficult for dermatologists to earn, "Find a system that helps you with your daily practice. If it happens to earn you federal incentive dollars, fantastic."

    If a product doesn't do this, but still makes the practitioner a better doctor, he says, "Go for it."


    John Jesitus
    John Jesitus is a medical writer based in Westminster, CO.

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