College of American Pathologists
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February 2008

Raymond D. Aller, MD
Hal Weiner

Two groups trying to pick... Two groups trying to pick formal definitions that stick for health IT terms

If you are one of the many who don’t understand the difference between an EHR and an EMR, or an EMR and a PHR, or an HIE and a RHIO, take heed—help is on the way. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, or ONC, is working on defining five common health information technology terms: electronic health record, electronic medical record, personal health record, health information exchange, and regional health information organization.

Clarifying the terms is important for health care policy and security reasons, says Karen Bell, MD, director of the ONC, which operates under the purview of the Department of Health and Human Services. Language that is used in policies to create industry regulation must be clear and well defined for those policies to be effective, she says. And consumer information, in the form of personal health care data, must be protected. Consequently, specific applications must be certified so the public knows their data are secure.

“Take, for example, a PHR, a personal health record,” says Dr. Bell. “You really want to know what exactly a personal health record is if you’re going to develop some criteria for security, for confidentiality, and for interoperability.”

The problem is, she continues, that the term PHR is being used to describe various kinds of electronic applications. A formal definition would convey the level of security in a specific application.

Consumers are sometimes hesitant to share personal health information, adds Margaret Suddards, a member of the ONC’s Networks Work Group and director of product management for Axolotl Corp., a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of health information exchange solutions. But they should find reassurance, she says, in “having a definition that clearly says that if you’re operating one of these exchanges, or if you’re organized into a regional health information network of some kind, you are absolutely protecting the privacy of their health information.”

Since December, two volunteer working groups, one focused on the records-related terms EHR, EMR, and PHR, and one focused on the networks-related terms HIE and RHIO, have been seeking consensus on the definitions. The public has also been invited to comment.

“We’ve had a lot of really good input and, honestly, most of it has come from the community that either created, used, or in some size, shape, or form touched these applications,” Dr. Bell says.

Once all the definitions are finalized, they will be presented to the secretary of Health and Human Services at a meeting of the American Health Information Community, a federal advisory body. That meeting will most likely be held within the next few months, says Dr. Bell, adding, “We are hoping to have a set of definitions in place by April.”

To get health care professionals and others to start using the definitions, Dr. Bell says the ONC will conduct outreach to various groups, such as legislators, physicians, and lawyers.

Free e-learning course... Free e-learning course on basics of radio-frequency ID technology

Abhisam Software has released a free e-learning course on the basics of radio-frequency identifi¬cation technology. The course is available for download from the company’s Web site,

The course contains Flash-based animation, rich graphics, and interactive exercises and self-tests.

Health care professionals can download the course without divulging any personal or professional information.

Abhisam Software is a provider of e-learning courses on technical subjects. The company markets a comprehensive e-learning course on RFID technology as well as other courses.

Practice Fusion enters two alliances for EMR Practice Fusion enters two alliances for EMR

Practice Fusion has partnered with Physician Services Inc., Escondido, Calif., and Azalea Health Innovations, Valdosta, Ga., to deploy its electronic medical record application.

Through its partnership with Practice Fusion, PSI, one of the largest billing services in California, will provide preferred billing services for Practice Fusion clients. PSI will also offer the Practice Fusion electronic medical record to its own client base at no cost.

Azalea Health Innovations, which provides technical and billing consulting services to independent practitioners in south Georgia and north Florida, will become an authorized distributor and professional services partner for Practice Fusion.

Practice Fusion, Circle No. 186
Physician Services, Circle No. 187
Azalea Health Innovations, Circle No. 188

Meditech partners with DrFirs Meditech partners with DrFirs

Medical Information Technology and DrFirst have announced a strategic alliance to integrate DrFirst’s medication history and e-prescribing technologies with Meditech’s hospital-focused client/server and Magic applications.

Under the agreement, Meditech will integrate DrFirst’s Rcopia engine services with software in Meditech’s health care information systems. Hospitals will have immediate on-line access to patient medication histories to streamline the medication reconciliation process and transition patients between care environments. The integration will also provide hospitals with health plan information and support electronic prescribing between hospitals and pharmacies.

Meditech, Circle No. 189
DrFirst, Circle No. 190

NextGen formally launches business division NextGen formally launches business division

NextGen Healthcare, a wholly owned subsidiary of Quality Systems, has announced the formal public launch of NextGen Practice Solutions, a business division that provides physician practices with revenue-cycle management services.

The business division combines a Web-based software-as-a-service model and the integrated NextGen software platform to execute its revenue-cycle management offerings.

Among the products and services offered by NextGen Practice Solutions are eligibility checking, charge capture, claims scrubbing, image and document management, payment posting, call center, and patient correspondence.

Clients can deploy the NextGen EMR as part of their Practice Solutions implementation.

NextGen Healthcare, Circle No. 191

Contracts Contracts

Community Health Systems, Frank¬lin, Tenn., has signed an agreement to deploy McKesson’s physician portal, electronic medical records, and performance analytics tools across most of its facilities. Affiliates of CHS own or operate more than 125 hospitals in 28 states

McKesson Corp., Circle No. 192

Wyndgate Technologies, a division of Global Med Technologies, has signed a purchase agreement to install its SafeTrace Tx transfusion management software at Community Memorial Hospital, Hamilton, NY.

Wyndgate Technologies, Circle No. 193

MedPlus has been awarded a contract to implement a clinical portal and information exchange for the Brooklyn Health Information Exchange, a nonprofit corporation that will offer health information exchange services in Brooklyn, NY.

MedPlus, Circle No. 194

Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories has selected the InterSystems Caché object database as the database for its next-generation laboratory billing system. Spokane, Wash.-based PAML, a large independent laboratory that operates throughout the West, plans to begin modularized deployment of the new Caché-based billing application this year.

InterSystems Corp., Circle No. 195

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded QuadraMed Corp. a $21.8 million contract to renew the term license for QuadraMed’s Encoder product suite and for related training services for all Veterans Affairs medical centers nationwide. The Encoder suite is a comprehensive health information management and revenue-cycle management solution used by all VA medical centers. It includes software for inpatient and outpatient coding, compliance, claims editing, and revenue-cycle workflow.

QuadraMed Corp., Circle No. 196

Dr. Aller is director of automated disease surveillance and team lead for disaster preparedness Focus B, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. He can be reached at Hal Weiner is president of Weiner Consulting Services, LLC, Florence, Ore. He can be reached at