ICSA Labs Ready to Take EHR Certification, Interoperability Reins
ICSA Labs, an independent division of Verizon, is now one of the largest government-approved EHR testing and certification body. The organization has aspirations beyond meaningful use, though, and hopes to drive healthcare IT vendors toward interoperability and innovation.
To help ease concerns about the void it was leaving, CCHIT encourages its customers to work with ICSA Labs for both testing and certification purposes. ICSA Labs, an independent division of Verizon, is well-positioned as a “good place for customers to get a soft landing,” according to Managing Director George P. Japak.
‘Proficiency’ in Product Certification Serves ICSA Labs Well
Started in 1989, ICSA Labs got its start testing IT security products, says Japak, who spoke with CIO.com at the Health Information and Management Systems Society’s HIMSS 2014 conference. These initial offerings included traditional network and endpoint products such as firewalls and VPNs, as well as network attached peripherals such as copy machines and video equipment. Over time, this focus grew to encompass mobile device and mobile application testing — the latter of which Japak describes as “an area fraught with problems and with growing implications in healthcare.”
ICSA Labs has issued certifications in accordance with ISO standards since 2004, Japak says. Its experience with interoperability, meanwhile, dates back to late 1990s, when it helped the Automotive Industry Action Group connect 40,000 trading partners that met industry standards, but nonetheless couldn’t share information.
When it comes to meeting the needs of EHR certification, Japak says, “We were accustomed to the rigor and necessary focus on executing these tests, and having that type of proficiency has served us well.”
Here, ICSA Labs sees its work with IHE as playing a pivotal role. The 2015 certification criteria, for example, propose a requirement that EHR systems first receive continuity of care document (CCD) messages from other EHRs at a 95 percent success rate and then present the XML in human-readable format, says Michelle Knighton, ICSA Lab’s program manager for healthcare. The IHE’s work, including its annual Connectathon interoperability testing events, focuses on solving such problems.
That expertise will likely extend beyond EHR systems, Knighton says. As mobile devices continue to permeate healthcare organizations, security, privacy and interoperability testing — largely absent from meaningful use — will take on added importance. After all, devices that can’t communicate with one another won’t improve outcomes or patient safety, Knighton says.
This will pertain to patient engagement as well, she adds. As patients grow up with technology, they will expect more from physicians. Specifically, they will want data collected from their personal health devices to be exported to the clinical systems their physicians use, Knighton says, and they’ll want to communicate with their doctors on a regular basis. An inability to do this puts pressure on healthcare providers, which in turn puts pressure on vendors, she says.
That, in part, explains why ICSA Labs entered healthcare in the first place. It’s hard to ignore a marketplace growing so quickly and experiencing “a manifestation of technology explosion,” Japak says. For the organization to stay around another 25 years, he adds, it was a matter of asking, “What can we do to be transformational?”
Brian Eastwood is a senior editor for CIO.com with more than 10 years of experience writing, editing and producing content for newspapers and the Web. He is primarily responsible for working with CIO.com's contributors and columnists, who cover topics such as cloud computing, big data, development and architecture, personal tech, the IT channel, business applications, BYOD, consumerization and business / project management. Brian's specific area of interest and expertise is healthcare IT. Prior to CIO.com, Brian was an editor at TechTarget and a newspaper reporter in the Boston suburbs. Outside the office, Brian is a history buff with a particular interest in postwar Europe and a runner who recently finished his 11th marathon.