EHR Certification Bodies Named
The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT), Chicago, and the Drummond Group Inc. (DGI), Austin, TX, were named yesterday by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) as the first technology review bodies that have been authorized to test and certify electronic health record (EHR) systems for compliance with the standards and certification criteria that were issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) earlier this year.
ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ONC-ATCBs) means that EHR vendors can now begin to have their products certified as meeting criteria to support meaningful use, a key step in the national initiative to encourage adoption and effective use of EHRs by America's health care providers.
"Less than 2 months following the issuance of final meaningful use rules, we have approved our initial ONC-ATCB certifiers. EHR vendors can begin immediately to get their products certified." said David Blumenthal, MD, national coordinator for Health Information Technology. This is a crucial step because it ensures that certified EHR products will be available to support the achievement of the required meaningful use objectives, that these products will be aligned with one another on key standards, and that doctors and hospitals can invest with confidence in these certified systems."
Applications for additional ONC-ATCBs are also under review.
Certification of EHRs is part of a broad initiative undertaken by Congress and President Obama under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. HITECH created new incentive payment programs to help health providers as they transition from paper-based medical records to EHRs. Incentive payments totaling as much as $27 billion may be made under the program.
Individual physicians and other eligible professionals can receive up to $44,000 through Medicare and almost $64,000 through Medicaid. Hospitals can receive millions.
To qualify for the incentive payments, providers must not only adopt, but also demonstrate meaningful use of, certified EHR systems. The law envisions that defined meaningful use requirements will help ensure that the patient and provider benefits of EHRs are realized. Initial meaningful use criteria were defined in a final rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on July 28.
In addition to the CMS rule, ONC also issued standards and certification criteria for EHRs on July 28, aimed at ensuring that EHR systems will support the specific tasks required under meaningful use. Also, through regulations issued on June 24, ONC created a system by which technology review organizations could also qualify as ONC- ATCBs that will certify EHR products as meeting the requirements necessary for meaningful use.
"Multiple steps are underway to carry out the intent of Congress in supporting rapid and effective adoption of EHRs throughout our health care system," Dr. Blumenthal said. "The naming of initial ONC-ATCBs is one important step. Actual certification of multiple vendors' systems by the ONC-ATCBs is an important next step. CMS is also working to create an online system for providers to register and attest for the EHR incentive programs. The first incentive payments are targeted to be made in May 2011. Meanwhile, ONC is also carrying out new programs of technical assistance and training, especially for smaller hospitals and physician practices."
Dr. Blumenthal said the Health IT initiative "is on an aggressive schedule to meet the urgent targets set by Congress and the President toward realizing the quality and safety improvements that we can achieve through health information technology."
To learn more about the ONC-ATCBs visit www.cchit.org and www.drummondgroup.com.
For more information about the ONC certification programs visit http://healthit.hhs.gov/certification.