HHS lays out how cer­ti­fi­ca­tion groups for EHR sys­tems will be cho­sen

HHS un­veils process to help providers with IT sub­si­dies for EHRs

Modern Healthcare - - News - Joseph Conn

The un­veil­ing of a pro­posed rule that lays the ground­work to au­tho­rize or­ga­ni­za­tions to cer­tify elec­tronic health records for a large fed­eral EHR in­cen­tive pro­gram was greeted with en­thu­si­asm by in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tives.

The move by the Of­fice of the Na­tional Co­or­di­na­tor for Health In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy at HHS could ease a ma­jor bot­tle­neck to a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar fed­eral pro­gram to sub­si­dize the pur­chase of EHR sys­tems by hos­pi­tals and of­fice-based physi­cians un­der the Amer­i­can Re­cov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act of 2009.

The new rule “re­ally filled the gap for providers,” said Alana Ketchel, a con­sul­tant work­ing with the Cal­i­for­nia Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Agency. Once the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­grams are up and run­ning, providers will know “they’ll have a prod­uct so they’ll be able to get their in­cen­tive pay­ments,” Ketchel said.

David Blu­men­thal, head of the ONC, an­nounced the release of the 184-page rule at the Health­care In­for­ma­tion and Man­age­ment Sys­tems So­ci­ety con­fer­ence in At­lanta. (For more on the HIMSS gath­er­ing, see p. 30.) To be el­i­gi­ble for fed­eral IT sub­sidy pay­ments un­der the stim­u­lus law, hos­pi­tals and so­called “el­i­gi­ble pro­fes­sion­als,” chiefly physi­cians, must use “cer­ti­fied” EHR sys­tems in a mean­ing­ful man­ner.

The new rule out­lines a two-pronged EHR cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process, one tem­po­rary and one per­ma­nent.

One prong of the new process would es­tab­lish one or more or­ga­ni­za­tions called an ONC-au­tho­rized test­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion body. The ex­pe­dited process could per­mit EHRs and sep­a­rate com­po­nent parts or mod­ules of an EHR to be cer­ti­fied by as early

as this sum­mer, ac­cord­ing to Steve Pos­nack, pol­icy an­a­lyst for the ONC. The fi­nal rule should be pub­lished this spring, Pos­nack said. Or­ga­ni­za­tions seek­ing to be­come cer­ti­fi­ca­tion bodies can be­gin ap­ply­ing for recog­ni­tion once the fi­nal rule is pub­lished, he said.

The tem­po­rary pro­gram would ex­pire in the first quar­ter of 2012. It would be re­placed by the sec­ond prong of the process, which would cre­ate a per­ma­nent pro­gram that would des­ig­nate an out­side agency to cer­tify or­ga­ni­za­tions, ac­cord­ing to the new rule.

The per­ma­nent pro­gram would sep­a­rate the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for test­ing and cer­ti­fy­ing and also pro­vide for test­ing of IT sys­tems be­sides EHRs and EHR mod­ules, such as per­sonal health records and health in­for­ma­tion ex­changes.

Linda Kloss, CEO of the Amer­i­can Health In­for­ma­tion Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, said the bi­fur­cated autho­riza­tion process sounded like a work­able scheme “to get this rolling.”

The Na­tional In­sti­tute of Stan­dards and Tech­nol­ogy is de­vel­op­ing a method and in­fra­struc­ture that will be used by test­ing lab­o­ra­to­ries in the test­ing com­po­nent of both cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­grams. The pub­lic com­ment pe­riod for the tem­po­rary cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram will be open for 30 days af­ter of­fi­cial pub­li­ca­tion of the new rule in the Fed­eral

Reg­is­ter. The pub­lic com­ment pe­riod for the per­ma­nent cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram will be open for 60 days af­ter pub­li­ca­tion.

Jamie Skip­per, pres­i­dent of Skip­per Con­gres­sional Strate­gies, a Wash­ing­ton­based pol­icy ad­vi­sory firm, said “it’s en­cour­ag­ing to know this is not in the fu­ture now. It’s def­i­nite. It still re­mains to be seen how timely the bodies can con­form to th­ese cri­te­ria and the ven­dors can meet th­ese cri­te­ria to have prod­ucts ready for their cus­tomers.”

ONC head David Blu­men­thal an­nounced the rule at the HIMSS con­fab in At­lanta.

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