N.J. bill would require certified health IT

The legislation comes before the federal government picks an organization to create standards for medical records systems.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted July 10, 2009

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A bill introduced in New Jersey would make it unlawful for health information technology systems to be sold or distributed unless they are certified to meet interoperability standards.

Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr., MD, an internist from Willingboro, N.J., who is a strong advocate of health IT, introduced the bill as a way of expediting interoperable health IT systems in the state. The bill initially called for systems to be certified only by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology. But it was amended at the request of the Medical Society of New Jersey and others.

CCHIT more than likely will be the certifying body the federal government chooses as the standard for systems physicians must use to meet "meaningful use" requirements to get incentive funds for electronic health records, but it's not a done deal, said Tim Martin, government relations representative for the medical society. (Those meaningful use requirements have not yet been set.)

"If they wound up certifying something else, we wanted to make sure those certifications would meet the requirements of [Dr. Conaway's] bill," Martin said.

The bill calls for the prohibition of the sale or distribution of all noncertified systems by 2011 and a minimum fine of $1,000 for the first violation, $2,500 for the second violation, and $5,000 for the third and each subsequent violation of the law.

Dr. Conaway said the bill does not outlaw the use of noncertified systems, only the selling and purchase of them. Practices that already have a system in place would not be required to change. Another amendment to the bill excluded health IT systems that don't deal directly with patient care, such as practice management systems.

Dr. Conaway said local members of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society helped draft the legislation. The national group did not participate in those discussions, according to H. Stephen Lieber, HIMSS president and CEO. And, in fact, the national group thinks the bill may have gone too far.

"Something at that extreme, if it were at the national level, we would not support," Lieber said. "We just simply, generally speaking, don't operate with that sort of principle in mind that you ban or prohibit something. Our view is if you put in the right kind of incentives, the marketplace is going to take care of this sort of thing."

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