In January of this year, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center became the first hospital to have its home-grown EMR certified by CCHIT under its EHR Alternative Certification for Hospitals (EACH) program. As some of you will know, EACH the program allows hospitals with legacy EMR systems to be certified as meeting Meaningful Use Standards.
At the time, EACH was in beta, and the process definitely seems to have had some bugs in it. In a blog entry telling the story of BIDMC’s participation, then-CIO John Halamka warned that hospitals dedicate at least 2 weeks and 5 FTEs to reviewing the required NIST scripts, finding ways to demonstrate key functions and practicing the demo.
Now, five more organizations have won EACH certification. Last week, CCHIT announced that Health Management Associates, New York University Langone Medical Center, Northwestern University, Tenet HealthSystem Medical and the University of North Carolina Health Care, according to an item in Healthcare IT News.
In the article, author Diana Manos argues that teaching hospitals, in particular, are concluding that getting EACH certification is smarter than buying hugely expensive new systems which are already certified. Not only does it save money to get existing systems approved, it allows doctors to keep using the EMR they’re using today.
You may be wondering why only five hospitals have moved ahead to date if EACH can potentially save hospitals hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s a good question. After all, if anything the government does can save on health IT dollars, you’d think they’d be all for it. But as always, there’s more to the picture.
For one thing, four of the five EACH-approved organizations were in same CCHIT pilot group as Beth Israel Deaconess, which means that the EACH program is just beginning its actual launch. And as Halamka noted, the process of meeting its demands can be quite taxing.
The only new player was the University of North Carolina, which can claim the honor of being the first certified under the official program. UNC chief technology officer John Baba told Healthcare IT News that the process was “very nerve wracking,” calling for a great deal of practice by the facility’s IT staff, doctors and nurses. All told, UNC’s EACH preparations took six months, the magazine reports.
That being said, the EACH program could roar to life this year. Now that UNC has given things a kick-start, other prospective EACH participants are getting interested. Baba told the reporter that at least four other major universities have called to ask him for tips on how to navigate the program.