Karen Bell, M.D., who will begin her tenure on April 26 as chair of the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, cannot represent the organization before federal officials until November 2010 because of her past experience in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Bell previously served as director of the office of health information technology adoption and as acting deputy in ONC, and left in November 2008 to take a position with Masspro, the quality improvement organization of Massachusetts. She entered a two-year "cooling period" upon leaving ONC, which restricts her contacts with federal officials.

Consequently, Alisa Ray, executive director of CCHIT, and retiring chair Mark Leavitt, M.D., will until November represent the organization when dealing with the government. Leavitt will be staying at CCHIT for an indeterminate period during a transition phase, Bell says in an interview with Health Data Management.

Bell took the CCHIT post because as an ONC representative she served on the organization's board for several years and helped build the accrediting firm. "Very honestly, I've missed the opportunity to work on the national scene," she says. Her new role also is a good challenge as CCHIT transitions to apply for and perform its duties under a new federal electronic health records certification program. "Moving CCHIT into this new environment was very exciting to me," she adds.

Under the proposed certification rule mandated under the HITECH Act, ONC will operate the temporary certification program and select the certifying organizations. The federal office also will play a role in selecting certifiers for the permanent certification program.

In the immediate future, Bell anticipates no major changes to CCHIT because it needs consistency as it seeks to transition to a federal program and already has a solid foundation of collaborative work with the industry, she notes. The organization will continue with its current provisional ARRA and full certification programs as it moves to become an accreditation body under the federal model.

But over time, there will be opportunities to develop certification programs beyond EHRs, such as for health information exchanges and consumer-oriented health information services, Bell says.

--Joseph Goedert


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