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Health IT Standards

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Importance of Information Technology

Information technology (IT) is key to reforming health care in America.

How often have you sat in a doctor's office, writing your health information on yet another set of paper forms? Waited for lab results to be sent to your doctor? Hand-carried X-rays from one office to another?

Electronic health records (EHRs) save everyone time and money. They reduce the chance of medical error. And when information can be shared electronically, it impacts every step in the health care process.

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Achieving Interoperability

Sharing information requires interoperability. Big word, simple concept: It's what lets you use your bank card in ATMs virtually around the world. It will give patients the same kind of access to their own medical histories.

Achieving interoperability means setting standards, so one system can talk to another, exchanging data accurately, efficiently, and securely. And connecting providers and payers across the nation will provide the reservoir of data necessary to dependably measure cost and quality.

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Creating Standards

The American Health Information Community, supported by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT at HHS, includes representatives from health care professions, technology vendors, government agencies, employers and patients.  The Community was convened to advise in the development of health IT standards.

Health IT standards will ensure that health care providers have instant, secure access to accurate patient records through EHRs. EHRs will replace the medical clipboard. In addition, standards will enable patients managing chronic diseases to coordinate and monitor their care among different providers.

Standards covering registration, lab results, prescription drugs, and secure information transfer have nearly been finalized.

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Certification Process

A certification process ensures these standards are being met. The American Health Information Association (AHIMA), the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and the National Alliance for Health Information Technology created the Certification Commission for Health Care Technology (CCHIT) External Links Disclaimer . CCHIT's mission is to accelerate the adoption of health information technology by creating an efficient, credible and sustainable product certification program.

In May 2006, AHIC unanimously recommended CCHIT’s detailed standards for the creation of electronic heath records used in ambulatory care centers, such as physician offices. Since then, CCHIT has updated those standards and also published draft criteria for EHRs used in hospitals. Software developers will use these criteria to ensure the functionality, interoperability, security and reliability of health information technology. In July 2006, the first CCHIT-certified ambulatory EHR products were announced. Nearly two dozen software systems are now certified, with more on the way.

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