Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion de­tails still un­known

Modern Healthcare - - The Week In Healthcare - Joseph Conn

The mas­sive new fed­eral rule on defin­ing “mean­ing­ful use” of health in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy is­sued by the CMS on Dec. 30, 2009 has been get­ting most of the at­ten­tion in health IT cir­cles. But a smaller com­pan­ion rule si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­leased by HHS’ Of­fice of the Na­tional Co­or­di­na­tor also will af­fect providers and de­vel­op­ers of elec­tronic health-record sys­tems.

The ONC was des­ig­nated un­der the fed­eral stim­u­lus law to keep pro­grams for “the vol­un­tary cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of health IT as be­ing in com­pli­ance with ap­pli­ca­ble cer­ti­fi­ca­tion cri­te­ria adopted” by HHS. As such, it is­sued an in­terim fi­nal rule de­signed to lay out what ven­dors need to do to be “qual­i­fied” un­der a def­i­ni­tion in the stim­u­lus law and “cer­ti­fied” against cri­te­ria es­tab­lished through fed­eral rule­mak­ing by a

cer­ti­fi­ca­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion “rec­og­nized” by the ONC.

Still to come is a new rule to be writ­ten to cover how cer­ti­fi­ca­tion bodies will be se­lected and “rec­og­nized,” ac­cord­ing to David Blu­men­thal, head of the ONC. This crit­i­cal third rule, “we hope to is­sue shortly,” Blu­men­thal said at a Dec. 30 news con­fer­ence. Un­til then, and un­til the pub­lic com­ment pe­riod closes and ONC re­sponds, the linch­pin EHR-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process will re­main in limbo.

Mean­while, HHS ap­pears to be dis­tanc­ing it­self from the not-for-profit Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Com­mis­sion for Health In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, which HHS en­cour­aged the pri­vate sec­tor to launch in 2004 and which HHS has sup­ported fi­nan­cially since 2005. CCHIT had been rec­og­nized in the past as a cer­ti­fy­ing body, but, Blu­men­thal said, “Its fu­ture sta­tus will be gov­erned by the reg­u­la­tory process that is on­go­ing right now. So, I think it’s pre­ma­ture to talk about the im­pli­ca­tions of any par­tic­u­lar set of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion cri­te­ria that CCHIT or any­body else has put for­ward or will put for­ward.”

Mark Se­gal, vice chair­man of the Elec­tronic Health Record As­so­ci­a­tion of the Chicago-based Health­care In­for­ma­tion and Man­age­ment Sys­tems So­ci­ety and di­rec­tor of gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try af­fairs for GE Health­care IT, said there re­mains “a rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tion that CCHIT will be one of those” or­ga­ni­za­tions that ONC will ap­prove for EHR test­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. “As a prac­ti­cal mat­ter,” Se­gal said, “the fact that you’ve been cer­ti­fied up un­til now means you have a lot of the func­tion­al­ity in place.”

CCHIT Chair­man Mark Leav­itt said he fully ex­pects CCHIT to meet the re­quire­ments ONC de­vel­ops to qual­ify as a “rec­og­nized” cer­ti­fi­ca­tion body un­der the EHR sub­sidy pro­gram.

In any event, ven­dors that have been fol­low­ing CCHIT’s cri­te­ria are likely to have a leg up on be­com­ing cer­ti­fied EHR ven­dors un­der the stim­u­lus law. “Those ven­dors who have kept with the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion are clos­est to meet­ing those mean­ing­ful-use re­quire­ments,” said Mark Wagner, di­rec­tor of am­bu­la­tory re­search for health IT mar­ket re­search firm KLAS En­ter­prises.

Blu­men­thal: “We hope to is­sue” the third rule shortly.

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