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8/25/2011
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HIE Accreditation Service Offered To Software Vendors

The Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission announces a privacy and security testing program to accompany existing health information exchange accreditation.

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A group that accredits health information exchanges for privacy and security adherence is extending its service to vendors of HIE technology. The Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC), based in Farmington, Conn., this week announced its Outsourced Services Accreditation Program for Health Information Exchange Services, a vendor-focused accompaniment to its existing Health Information Exchange Accreditation Program.

"We're clearly trying to focus on privacy, security [and], confidentiality of data flowing through the HIE," EHNAC Executive Director Lee Barrett said in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. "We're trying to provide the trust factor among all the different players." That includes both protected health information as defined by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and sensitive financial data.

The advantage of this new program is that it simplifies the accreditation program for HIEs that purchase accredited software and hosting services, according to Barrett. The current HIE accreditation involves a self-assessment, then a site visit from EHNAC personnel to verify claims in the self-assessment. But those with accredited vendor products will be able to skip the site review, saving the HIE time and money, Barrett said.

EHNAC accreditation differs from the federally sanctioned electronic health records (EHR) certification program in that the latter only includes a test for functionality, and does not require site visits to corroborate the application. "It adds another quality-control factor," Barrett said of the EHNAC site visits that evaluate privacy and security protections.

Barrett said he would like HIE and HIE vendor accreditation to get the federal government's stamp of approval, much like the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) sanction EHR certification. However, federal control of EHR certification is statutory, authorized by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Barrett confirmed that EHNAC has had discussions with ONC and NIST about earning some sort of official stamp of approval, and he said he'd be happy if the HIE and vendor accreditation programs became even a de facto standard.

EHNAC soon will publish draft criteria for vendor accreditation and will open a 60-day comment period on Sept. 26. The organization will beta-test the new program in the fall in preparation for a full launch in January.

Find out how health IT leaders are dealing with the industry's pain points, from allowing unfettered patient data access to sharing electronic records. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: There needs to be better e-communication between technologists and clinicians. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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