Federal effort to create EMR standard hits the road

The federal government’s effort to create a standardized electronic medical record is hitting the road with some of the most influential associations in the healthcare information world taking the pulse of the public through a marathon set of meetings designed to quickly elicit comments on the effort. The government has challenged the industry to come up with EMR standards, asking Health Level 7 and the Institute of Medicine to spearhead the process. The first meetings were held last week in Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles, with Boston, Atlanta, and Dallas slated for meetings this week.

Input from the meetings held thus far has been helpful, according to Scott Wallace, president of the National Alliance for Health Information Technology. Wallace helped moderate the sessions as part of the EHR Collaborative. Wallace said the meetings have successfully focused on possible solutions rather than complaints.

“We get a richness of comments that underlines the fundamental challenge of it all,” Wallace said. “I’ve been pleased with the breadth of comments.”

Especially important, he said, were the comments from boots-on-the-ground clinicians such as nurses and practicing physicians.

While both Health Level 7 and the Institute of Medicine have provided their outlines of what an electronic medical record system should look like, Wallace said those groups tend to be heavy on accomplished informatics professionals and administrators.

“They’re an esteemed and vaunted group, but they’re not in an acute-care setting,” he said. “If you want this to be successful, you have to get the users involved.”

With a tight deadline – the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would like input back by Sept. 1 – the meetings are also serving as a chance for members of organizations supporting the standard-setting effort, Wallace said. In addition to NAHIT, those groups include the American Medical Association, the American Health Information Management Association, the American Medical Informatics Association, the American Nurses Association, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, the eHealth Initiative, and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.