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New IHE/ICSA certifications another step toward interoperability in healthcare

The software products of eight health IT vendors were certified as secure and interoperable by IHE USA and ICSA Labs. The products are the first to be certified by the program, which was created to address the incompatibility of today’s health IT systems and offer technology buyers third-party verification that medical devices, software and hardware will work together.

The testing requirements covered medical device interoperability, patient identification, clinical document sharing, security and audit logging. The certification standards will eventually cover more than EHR systems, expanding to include patient care devices, cardiology, radiology, dentistry and eye care. ICSA Labs was one of the first six organizations to be named as an authorized testing and certification body for EHR systems by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, although these interoperability certifications are separate from 2014 meaningful use standards.

Device and system interoperability has been the focus of some recent studies, and the goal of many healthcare organizations. The FDA and the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) led an interoperability summit to address many of the industry’s concerns. The summit aimed to standardize data interoperability through one of the current industry standards. The results of an AAMI survey conducted last year showed that 72% of healthcare technology professionals view medical systems and devices as their main concern, with interoperability and security likely to be two of the main reasons for that concern.

Interoperability is a large undertaking and national regulators are taking a cautious, incremental approach to making data from different EHR systems compatible with one another. CMS and the ONC recently defended themselves from criticism that stage 2 of meaningful use will not require enough standardization of EHR data. The federal regulatory bodies stated that stage 2 represents progress, though it doesn’t require industry-wide cooperation. The time and effort required to pass interoperability laws and provider and vendor preparedness are other factors that must be considered when evaluating the progress of interoperability in the healthcare industry.

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