Yes, it’s yet another acronym in healthcare, but an important one at that, especially as Electronic Health Record adoption begins to soar. HHS is close to issuing the final ruling on ‘meaningful use’ criteria, which will set the qualification standards physicians must meet to obtain Federal stimulus dollars for adopting EHR technology.

CCR stands for the Continuity of Care Record (CCR). In the near future, this may be a required document that must be offered to patients after doctor visits, describing what happened at their doctor visit and what will happen next. The proposed ‘meaningful use’ standards include the use and interoperability of CCRs; and therefore, any physician considering purchasing an EHR and seeking Federal incentive payments should enquire about this functionality in potential EHR products.

ASTM, one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations, has been heavily involved in developing standards for the CCR.  The CCR standards proposed to HHS by ASTM present … “a way to create flexible XML documents that contain the most relevant and timely healthcare information about a patient and to send these records electronically from one caregiver to another and to patients in the hope of creating better coordination and quality of care.”

ASTM E2369, Specification for Continuity of Care Record, was included as a patient summary record standard in Interim Final Rule, document 45 CFR Part 170 RIN 0991-AB58, published by HHS on December 30, 2009. The ASTM CCR standards will be used for developing effective and timely electronic messaging of health care records, and it has been adopted as a standard for structured summary health record exchange included in new regulations associated with ARRA/HITECH Act.

With this in mind, Health IT professionals are looking at these standards in the development of EHRs. EHRs must support a CCR and also the functional ability for this CCR to be shared between different electronic medical/health record systems and medical offices/facilities. Medsphere is currently creating a CCR that can be output as a version of an Adobe PDF file- a format that can be stored, printed or faxed- but also supported by encryption to protect privacy and security of patients’ medical information. As ‘meaningful use’ criteria nears final ruling, many other companies may be following suit.

While the ‘meaningful use’ standards and requirements are not finalized and still open for public comment, requirements for CCR functionality may not be set in stone; however, it is promising that some aspect of the CCR will be a standard supported by final ‘meaningful use’ criteria. It may be just another acronym in healthcare, but the CCR could pose interesting challenges for Health IT professionals and medical providers, who must work to ensure that specific aspects of medical encounters can be captured, be interoperable with Personal Health Records, and be shared between the healthcare systems at large.