(CCHIT): An Invitation to Participate in Developing a Certification Program for Personal Health Records

I am posting this invitation from the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology in its entirety, because I am Co-Chair of the Personal Health Records Workgroup alongside Lory Wood from the Good Health Network. I’ve been very impressed with the experience and talent that the group has brought to this first step and I have learned a ton. The input of the public is the next step. I encourage everyone to get involved.


If you are thinking about using a personal health record (PHR) to better manage personal health but aren’t sure what you should look for, you may be asking questions such as these:

§ With PHRs offered by physicians, health insurers or online providers, how do I begin to make a choice that is right for me or my family?

§ Everyone is worrying about electronic data and privacy today, so how can I be sure that the PHR I choose has adequate security?

§ Will I be able to share access to my personal health information with those I trust such as my doctor or an emergency department?

There is a program developing to help you answer these questions. The Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT®) is an officially “recognized certification body” in the US for health information technology – a private, nonprofit organization that is to electronic health information products what Underwriters Laboratories is to electrical products. The Commission applies standards, tests products, and awards a “seal of compliance” to health information products. If you buy an electrical product, you should expect to see the UL® seal. If you choose a health information product, you should look for the CCHIT certification seal.

The Certification Commission already certifies electronic health records used in doctor’s offices and hospitals. The Commission will launch a new program for personal health records in mid-2009 that will emphasize privacy, security and the information sharing capabilities of PHRs.

The Commission has completed its first step, the creation of draft criteria for testing PHRs. Beginning Monday, Sept. 29, the criteria will be posted to http://cchit.org/participate/public-comment/ and available for a 30-day public comment period.

A new Web site and blog dedicated to furthering the conversation about PHRs, www.phrdecisions.com, will launch on that same date. A consumer’s guide to certification of PHRs will also be available there.

On Friday, Oct. 10, the Certification Commission will host a special free Town Call teleconference that will allow consumers and consumer representatives to gain a better understanding of PHR certification and how they can play a role in the process. The Town Call will include a presentation by Dr. Mark Leavitt, chair of the Commission, and Dr. Jodi Pettit, the staff leader of the PHR Work Group. It can be downloaded by Oct. 9 at www.phrdecisions.com.

Participants in the Town Call can ask questions during the call or online at www.phrdecisions.com. The questions and answers will be posted online following the teleconference.

The dial-in information for the Town Call is:
4:00 pm ET/ 3:00 pm CT/ 2:00 pm MT/ 1:00 pm PT

Participant Dial-In Number: 1 (877) 313-5342
Conference ID Number: 65204557


I hate to say it, but speaking as an innocent fool lay patient, I need another reminder on what PHRs are, among all the various "R" technologies.

And I would humbly encourage you to encourage lay participation by prominently posting that definition on the CCHIT PHR site. 🙂

I looked around for a place to add my 2c worth someday, and found the nice PARTICIPATE link at the top, but it took me out of the PHR subsite to the rather industrial-formal-sounding Public Comment page. Great for people who are in the standards game, but not too inviting for lay "geek wannabes."

Okay back to work with me…


We both know you are far from foolish….

I suggest you comment right on the site. CCHIT is working to include patient participation and your wisdom will be welcomed and very helpful, just like it is here,



Great web site and wonderful postings.

Thinking about the attributes of certification and their properties seems like a good idea.Who can't be interested in the potential for robust personal health records?

Certifying PHRs is, in my view, premature. Should there be great concern over privacy and data use? Absolutely! Should other important properties of health information be addressed through legislation and policy? Of course. But certifying a PHR in this early period is a bit like certifying PCs before high-speed internet was prevalent or certifying Web apps before Netscape, Amazon, RealAudio, and Web 2.0? Can you imagine what a blow certification can do to innovation?

CCHIT was formed to assure ambulatory practitioners that their products would meet certain criteria and not leave them in the lurch. It's right out of the Thompson / Brailer report. Now CCHIT is busy certifying all kinds of things for which we as a society have not yet created a collective understanding. Unnecessary complexity – and unnecessary and premature certification – cripples innovation.

What we need at this critical juncture is more innovation within a loose framework of privacy protection and secondary data use.

Just my two cents'

> comment right on the site

At the risk of imprecisely repeating myself, I couldn't find where to do that.

If I'd dug I might have found it, but I'd say I'm an existence proof that some people can't see where to start, if they want to pitch in (or even suggest posting the definition).


I'd just post a comment on the first posting on phrdecisions.com. As good a place as any.


Appreciate the feedback, and the central question: Does this work foster innovation? All of us on the workgroup are there because we want to make sure it does. We'll look forward to your opinion when you see the draft criteria. I think you are in a good position to provide an informed one given all of your experience – thanks for taking an interest in this and for following along here,


> phrdecisions.com

Oy. I didn't read your whole post, plunged into the PHR Workgroup site instead of the one you cited for conversation, then complained about being in the wrong room. 🙂

Another existence proof: not everything a patient says is inherently useful.

Back later!

Ted Eytan, MD