The organization that Chilmark Research has had, at times, a trying relationship with, CCHIT, otherwise known as the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology has appointed a dear friend, Dr. Karen Bell as its new leader.
Dr. Bell, who I first met while doing research on the PHR market, was instrumental in having me present to then Sec. Leavitt on consumer-facing healthcare technology trends – still one of the highlights of my relatively short career as a healthcare industry analyst. Since that presentation in 2008, my relationship with Dr. Bell has deepened and she has been one of several key mentors who have assisted me in understanding the healthcare IT market.
So, now that Dr. Bell has accepted this position to take over the reigns at CCHIT immediately, what might we expect:
Dr. Bell knows Washington DC and HHS quite well from her many years there. She is effective in a highly politicized environment and will be able to effectively lead CCHIT through that political minefield.
She also knows the issues and is fairly competent on the technical side of the fence, though certainly not a coder. Dr. Bell may be one of the better choices for CCHIT as she can advocate for this organization at a time when many still call into question its very existence. Of course, that existence has been somewhat guaranteed by ARRA legislative language (was this put in by HIMSS/CCHIT lobbying efforts?) that states organizations will receive incentive reimbursement for “meaningful use of certified EHRs“.
Dr. Bell will put up a Chinese Wall between CCHIT and the HIT vendor organization, HIMSS. She is fully aware of the perceived conflicts of interest between CCHIT and HIMSS and will seek to create some distance between these two organizations.
A strong advocate of consumer control of PHI, interoperability of EHRs, and the need for “open” HIE platforms/apps one can expect Dr. Bell to put extra emphasis on these issues at CCHIT within the context of certification requirements. This actually works out just fine with HHS as that is just what they are looking to foster with ARRA funding.
But what is less clear about Dr. Bell’s future role at CCHIT is how she will lead this organization forward in bringing together those that truly know HIT (reaching beyond the vendor community), the challenges of adoption (e.g., workflow), the cumbersomeness of many apps (plenty of them already having been blessed in the past by CCHIT), the need to create a certification structure and pricing model that fosters innovation rather than stunts it (CCHIT certification is still too expensive for many young, innovative companies) and finally, insuring that CCHIT does not over-reach (as it was doing under Mark Leavitt’s leadership) and focus where it can make the most meaningful impact.
This is a very tall order for anyone and while I still question even the very existence of CCHIT (have yet to see any demonstrable proof that CCHIT certification has moved the EHR/EMR adoption needle in any statistically meaningful way), I do have faith in Dr. Bell. If anyone can right this listing ship, it is her at the tiller.
Congratulations Dr. Bell and may you see smooth sailing in the not so distant future.
Anthony Guerra of HealthSystemCIO has a podcast interview with Dr. Bell now up on his website.