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Athenahealth-EHRA news significant only that it shakes up the status quo

By now, you’ve likely heard the news that Athenahealth has decided to quit the HIMSS EHR Association. As Athenahealth’s Dan Haley put it in a blog post: “At the end of the day, athenahealth left the EHRA because we never really belonged there in the first place. The EHRA was founded in 2004 by a group of EHR software vendors. Today, a decade into the age of cloud technology, the EHRA is still dominated and governed by a group of EHR software vendors.”

Athenahealth long has billed itself as a services company, not a software vendor, going so far as to hold a jazz funeral for the “death of software” at HIMSS13 in New Orleans. Athenahealth didn’t join the EHRA until 2011 anyway. It sounded like a bad fit.

I contacted Athenahealth, and was told that the company remains “fully committed” to the CommonWell Health Alliance, a coalition of health IT companies — also including Allscripts, Cerner, CPSI, Greenway Health, McKesson and Sunquest Information Systems — that came together for the stated purpose of “developing, deploying and promoting interoperability for the common good.” (There’s also the unstated purpose of fighting the dominance of Epic Systems.)

Athenahealth is staying on the interoperability path, but as is befitting the corporate culture, is going rogue when it comes to EHRs. It’s not the first time. It won’t be the last time, because it’s not like most of the other vendors/service providers, if for no other reason than CEO Jonathan Bush doesn’t fit the buttoned-down model of an executive. For that matter, neither did his co-founder, Todd Park, whom I often called an “anti-bureaucrat” during his time with the federal government. Park’s brother, Ed, is COO of Athenahealth, and also has unconventional tendencies.

I can relate to this mentality in a way. I quit the Association of Health Care Journalists years ago because it didn’t feel like a good fit for me. That group tried to include health IT in its programming, but it really was an organization for consumer and scientific reporters, not those of us in the business and trade press. Eight years later, I still don’t think the national media are doing such a great job covering health policy or explaining the nuances of this complicated industry. And, as I’ve said many times before about healthcare, the status quo is unacceptable.


April 23, 2014 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

HIMSS EHRA says ‘meaningful use’ criteria coming soon

According to a report in Health Data Management, the HIMSS EHR Association expects HHS to publish by June 16 proposed criteria for meeting the “meaningful use” standard to qualify for federal stimulus funding for health IT. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act requires the rules to be finalized by the end of 2009.

June 3, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

CCHIT under fire

The Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology is on the defensive after a very scathing comment about it on the Wall Street Journal Health Blog last week. (I added the hot links and spacing between paragraphs, but otherwise the text is verbatim):

Why not pack CCHIT EHR certifications in Cracker Jack Boxes? If folks think CCHIT is a real organization and the certification is anything more then a stamp of approval from the HIMSS Circus they need to think again after looking at the facts.

Some facts are known about the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology.

The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) is a defunct Illinois Not-For-Profit 501(c) 3, which operates to take money from the Office of the National Coordinator and Vendors by offering to sell a “Certification”.

DID I say DEFUNCT? Yes I said DEFUNCT…please read on.

The Not-For-Profit 501(c) 3, Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT), operates a “Front” office located at 200 S. Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois.

CCHIT, as it is known, represents itself as a government recognized organization for certifying electronic health records. CCHIT has received monies from the United States Government (estimated over $2.5 million to date) and monies from vendors of electronic health records.

CCHIT was formed as a NFP in the State of Illinois and is an entity spawned by none other , CCHIT is no longer a legal entity existing within the State of Illinois effective April 11, 2008, but continues to engage business as a 501(c) 3 accepting payments as reported by J. Morrisey, Director of CCHIT Communications (February 3, 2009).

CCHIT continues to hold itself out to take money for the sale of “Certification” (a rubber stamp device the buyer can display on his product if the fee is paid), a contrived performance standards product label developed by its parent organization, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), a lobbyist, with headquarters at 230 E. Ohio St., Chicago, Illinois. CCHIT was also located within the HIMSS Headquarters at 230 E. Ohio Street in Chicago but moved to Wacker Drive apparently due to appearances of being too close to the lobbyist parent organization.

CCHIT, through the organization that spawned them—, a lobbyist organization—recently asked for $25 Billion additional funds in an open letter to the Obama
administration ( HIMSS, through its agent H. Stephen Lieber, provided CCHT with $300,000 seed money in 2006 with which to fund a startup operation. HIMSS receives money from CCHIT as a subcontractor, as the payoff for seeding the startup. HIMSS provides public commentary through the use of its own members for certification criteria back to CCHIT. HIMSS is also the parent company for the Electronics Health Record Vendor Association (EHRVA), another Not-For-Profit housed at 230 E. Ohio St., Chicago, Illinois.

The Facts:
1. The Chairman of CCHIT is Mark Leavitt, MD, PhD. Mark Leavitt is also Chief Medical Officer with It is believed Mark Leavitt may be a relative of Mike Leavitt, former HHS Secretary.
2. CCHIT takes federal money, and money from vendors, in exchange for the sale of “certification”. CCHIT does not have a legitimate physical address where it conducts its testing. CCHIT has a “front” office at 200 S. Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois, with previous headquarters at 230 E. Ohio St., Chicago, Illinois. CCHIT is, in fact, now defunct.
3. CCHIT has no legitimate registration certificate of good standing with the State of Illinois, the state in which it is purportedly chartered as a 501(c) 3. It is, in fact, listed as “involuntarily dissolved” effective April 11, 2008, file# 65254336. Illinois State listing here:
4. CCHIT does not provide independent inspections of its facility or 3rd party reviews of its findings. “Certification” status of vendor products granted by CCHIT after the Illinois State’s involuntary dissolution date of April 11, 2008 appears to be without merit or bogus, and CCHIT operates deceptively to convey legitimacy.
5. CCHIT operates fraudulently within the State of Illinois and in the United States to take money from vendors of electronic health record systems and from taxpayers; the CCHIT business practice presents as a Pay-For-Play scheme; if the vendor pays, CCHIT certifies the product conveying a competitive advantage in the marketplace. There is no transparent certification testing for 3rd party review. The costs to certify are in the many tens of thousands per vendor. Officers and Directors of CCHIT have taken money in exchange for “Certification”, knowing its 501(c) 3 operational status to be defunct.
6. CCHIT, a dissolved entity and defunct 501(c) 3 Not-For-Profit, receives funding from the Office of the National Coordinator (ONCHIT) and is tied to a lobbyist organization that claims to be a Not-For-Profit,—the organization that spawned CCHIT and which formerly housed the entity in its corporate headquarters located at 230 E. Ohio St., Chicago, Illinois.

Why does CCHIT continue to certify vendor products when its own corporation has been involuntarily dissolved? Does the word “MONEY” ring a bell?

CCHIT continues to hold itself out as a certifying entity when it can’t even certify to the state of its incorporation that it does in fact exist.

Closing thoughts:
The certification process and testing should be reviewed carefully, and those vendor companies whose products were certified after CCHIT’s involuntary dissolution should be contacted. Money should be returned to the vendors and the taxpayers- CCHIT is a bogus operation.

CCHIT should NOT be allowed to receive future Federal grants and monies from the United States Government as part of the stimulus package. CCHIT is defunct , moreover the cozy relationships between CCHIT, ONC, CMS, HITSP and others are bankrolled with taxpayer money and money from and its others.

Through all the smoke and mirrors we the people are supposed to trust these Bozo’s and they actually think we are buying it?

There is no point in CCHIT holding itself out as a legitimate entity at HIMSS Annual Conference either, CCHIT is a defunct organization and has been since the beginning of 2008…DUH!

CCHIT has flown under the radar for a year and a half, the jig is up and the whistle has been blown.

Comment by cj – February 13, 2009 at 2:10 am

Oddly, this post actually was a comment in response to a post about the Mayo Clinic being caught in the Bernie Madoff scandal, and seemed to come out of the blue. I have no details about the identity of “CJ,” the person who makes these serious charges.

Clearly, though, the message got through, since CCHIT’s Sue Reber responded Sunday on the WSJ blog:

The “facts” in the previous post are deliberate misinformation from an anonymous source.
1. Mark Leavitt, chair of the Commission, is not employed by HIMSS as CMO nor is he a relative of Mike Leavitt, previous Sec. of HHS.
2. CCHIT conducts jury-observed and technical testing of vendor-submitted products, requiring that the products meet 100% of the compliance criteria published at It’s current administrative offices are at 200 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 3100, Chicago, Illinois.
3. CCHIT was founded originally as a LLC but has subsequently transitioned to a private, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. That is its current status.
4. CCHIT operates with the oversight of both its board of trustees – managing its business functions – and board of commissioners, which provides oversight of its certification development programs and inspection processes.
5. CCHIT’s trustees and commissioners receive no compensation; they serve in a volunteer capacity. CCHIT operates with a paid staff of about 20 personnel who support the work of the Commission and it’s 15 volunteer work groups, administer the certification inpections and provide outreach to its diverse stakeholders
6. CCHIT now operates independently of HIMSS, AHIMA and NAHIT – its founding organizations – and no money provided by ONC for developent or by vendors for the conduction of inspections is returned to those organizations.

Any questions about CCHIT’s operations may be directed to me at the following email address.

Sue Reber, Marketing Director

The Health Care Renewal blog verified the allegation that the Illinois Secretary of State lists CCHIT as “involuntarily dissolved.”

I live in Chicago. Say what you want about Illinois government, particularly in light of the Rod Blagojevich circus, but Secretary of State Jesse White seems as clean as they get, so I will take the public record at its word.

Here’s what else I know:

  • The “J. Morrisey” that the accuser refers to likely is John Morrissey (note the different spelling), communication manager for CCHIT. Morrissey previously worked for NAHIT. That does not necessarily mean NAHIT has any control over CCHIT.
  • Mark Leavitt no longer works for HIMSS, nor is he related to former HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt.
  • CCHIT received a three-year, $7.5 million contract from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in October 2005. That means the contract expired in October 2008.
  • Though the procurement process for the certification contract ostensibly was open, CCHIT was the only bidder. Given that HIMSS, NAHIT and AHIMA originally started CCHIT, it does seem like this was a de facto no-bid contract.
  • Although HIMSS did provide seed money for CCHIT, I am not aware of any current “subcontractor” relationship.
  • The HIMSS EHRVA changed its name to the HIMSS EHRA last year, dropping “vendor” from the title. I’m not sure whether this is relevant to any of this discussion, but “CJ” mentioned it.
  • The relationships between HIMSS, CCHIT, NAHIT, HITSP, ONC, CMS and others may be “cozy,” and that’s something definitely worth looking into. HIMSS CEO Steve Lieber and John Loonsk, M.D., director of the ONC Office of Interoperability and Standards are on the HITSP board, but that does not necessarily mean anything.
  • There has been some pushback against the CCHIT certification process of late from smaller vendors, provider organizations and critics of the ONC strategy in general. But those are criticisms of the process, not CCHIT itself.

All of this makes the rumors of Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel Chairman John Halamka, M.D., being under consideration for CMS administrator all the more delicious. But we’re still waiting for the president to nominate an HHS secretary, so it could be months before we get a permanent CMS administrator.

February 15, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Get on board

Is it me, or is this the week for changing organizational boards?

Actually, not all the board news was about new members, nor did some of the changes just happen, but I seem to be getting a bunch of announcements or application solicitations this week.

Today, HIMSS announced that its new elected officers and board members took office July 1. Yes, the announcement was dated today:

Advancing the Adoption of Health IT, New HIMSS Board Members Take Office
Chuck Christian and Liz Johnson assume top positions on Board of Directors for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society

CHICAGO (July 23, 2008) – Focused on improving the delivery of patient care through health IT and management systems, new officers and elected members of the HIMSS Board of Directors took office on July 1.

Charles E. Christian, FCHIME, FHIMSS, and Liz Johnson, RN, MSN, FHIMSS, began their terms as chair and vice chair, respectively. They replace Chair John Wade, FCHIME, FHIMSS, and Vice Chair Victoria Bradley, DNP, RN, CPHIMS, FHIMSS.

HIMSS Board Chair: Mr. Christian is the director of information systems and CIO of Good Samaritan Hospital, a 100-year-old, free-standing acute care community hospital in southwest Indiana. He is serving his 19th year in this role and his 37th year in healthcare.

HIMSS Board Vice Chair: Ms. Johnson is vice president of applied clinical informatics for Tenet HealthSystem. She is responsible for the strategic vision and the tactical plan for all clinical systems used throughout Tenet’s 57 provider organizations. Under her leadership, Tenet has developed and is implementing a comprehensive clinical informatics vision and strategy. Ms. Johnson speaks nationally and internationally on clinical applications and their strategic use as a tool for enhanced patient safety.

Chair-Elect and Vice Chair-Elect: In recent elections by the board, Barry Chaiken, MD, MPH, FHIMSS, was selected as chair-elect, and Ms. Johnson was reelected as vice chair-elect.

Dr. Chaiken has more than 20 years of experience in medical research, continuous quality improvement, risk management and patient safety. As founder of his own company, he worked on quality improvement studies and clinical investigations for the National Institutes of Health, the Framingham Heart Study, and Boston University Medical School. Dr. Chaiken is board certified in General Preventive Medicine and Public Health as well as Health Care Quality Management.

New Board Members: Four new board members began their three-year terms on July 1.

David S. Finn is vice president and CIO/privacy and information security officer at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. Holly D. Miller, MD, MBA, FHIMSS, is the vice president and CMIO at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio. Carol R. Selvey, MHSA, FHIMSS, is principal of The Revere Group, headquartered in Chicago. Charlene S. Underwood, MBA, FHIMSS, is director of government and industry affairs at Siemens Medical Solutions in Malvern, Pa.

New Nominating Committee Members: The following individuals began their two-year term on the Nominating Committee: Kathleen Covert Kimmel, RN, MHA, CHE, FHIMSS, vice president, nursing informatics, McKesson, Louisville, Colo.; Donald Levick, MD, MBA, CPHIMS, physician liaison, information services, Lehigh Valley Hospital, Allentown, Pa.; and Janet K. Stanek, FACHE-designate, RHIA, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, vice president, support services, and CIO, Stormont-Vail Healthcare, Topeka, Kan.

New Advisory Board Members: Two individuals began their terms on the Advisory Board: Michael J. McGill, PhD, Internet2, Health Sciences; Howard A. Burde, Esq., Blank Rome LLP.

et al.

The HIMSS Electronic Health Records Vendors Association also recently seated a new board. Justin Barnes, vice president of marketing and government affairs at Greenway Medical Technologies is now chairman, while Andy Ury M.D., Seattle-based chief medical officer of McKesson Physician Practice Solutions, is vice chairman.

The immediate past chair of the EHRVA, Don Schoen, CEO and president of MediNotes, was elected to the group’s executive committee. Others chosen for the committee include: Charlie Jarvis, assistant VP for healthcare industry services and legislative affairs at NextGen Healthcare Information Systems; Michele McGlynn, strategic manager in government and industry affairs for Siemens Medical Solutions; Charles Parisot, manager for architecture and standards at GE Healthcare; Rick Reeves, R.Ph., senior clinical manager of corporate development at Computer Programs and Systems Inc. (CPSI) in Mobile, Ala.; and Steve Tolle, Phoenix-based VP of product management for Allscripts.

Meanwhile, the AHIC Successor search team announced it was soliciting nominations for the board of the private-sector successor organization to the American Health Information Community panel that advises the secretary of Health and Human Services.

Nominations are being accepted through Aug. 4 at note, former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Mark McClellan, M.D., in his current role as director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution, is leading the effort to establish the AHIC Successor.

July 23, 2008 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.