The CCHIT, which has been certifying health IT systems since winning a federal government contract in 2006, is currently developing a program to be launched this summer called "Site Certification." The program and accompanying services allow inspectors to check a hospital's systems over the Web in order to certify them for meaningful use.
Until then, according to Reber, the most definitive source for information on "Meaningful Use" rules can be found on the HHS's health IT Web site.
The EHR payback
Denver Health, a health care group that serves some of Denver's poorest, uninsured residents, has recovered more than $28 million in revenue over a five-year period by digitizing its manual patient-tracking and claim-submission systems.
Gregg Veltri, CIO at Denver Health, said the ROI goes far beyond the money. For example, in his organization's pharmacy, a physician order used to take almost an hour and a half to process using a paper-based system. Once the EHR system was in place, that time dropped to 7.3 minutes.
"If you're on an antibiotic for a raging infection, the difference between 84 minutes and 7.3 minutes is a big difference. Or if you're in pain, 84 minutes is a long time," he said.
The CPOE system also cut down on mistakes. "It's legible," said Veltri, who used EMC Corp.'s consulting business to help with the rollout. "There is no, 'Is it penicillin or ampicillin?' As we all know, doctors' handwriting is interesting."
Far from being disheartened, most health care IT pros are looking forward to the progress they'll be able to make on patient care through the use of more highly integrated systems. "It's nice walking up to a unit and seeing a nurse or physician use the system and seeing it change the way we care for a patient," Podesta said. "To me it's very satisfying, as opposed to being a CIO in the banking or insurance industry. I can't impact the quality of someone's life in the same way there.
"In health care, it's a great time to be a CIO, even though there are lots of challenges," he said. "You need to embrace it and know you're making a difference and leaving a legacy behind."
Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.