Policy Committee OKs Plan To Establish Multiple EHR Certifiers

TOPIC ALERT:

On Friday, the Health IT Policy Committee adopted recommendations that called for multiple entities to certify electronic health record systems, Health Data Management reports.

The committee's certification and adoption work group issued the recommendations (Goedert [1], Health Data Management, 8/14).

To receive official certification, EHR systems must meet a minimum set of criteria and achieve the "meaningful use" objectives of the federal economic stimulus package. Under the stimulus law, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of EHRs will receive Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments (O'Harrow, Washington Post, 8/15).

Recommendations

The work group recommended that:

  • Certification criteria allow for open-source software;
  • Certification processes should let health care organizations qualify for EHR subsidies under Stark Law exceptions that allow organizations to subsidize the cost of EHRs for physicians;
  • Certification should last for four years;
  • Multiple groups perform HHS certification under a single set of criteria;
  • The National Institute for Standards and Technology should participate in accreditation and certification decisions;
  • The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT should define certification criteria;
  • ONC should create an accreditation process for certification groups;
  • Officials develop alternative certification processes for self-developed software; and
  • Vendors are required to receive certification from only one group (Health Data Management, 8/14).

The work group said it envisions the establishment of 10 to 12 different EHR certification groups, in addition to the Certification Commission for Health IT (Manos, Healthcare IT News, 8/14).

The recommendations now go to HHS for consideration (Health Data Management, 8/14).

Impact on CCHIT

In the past, CCHIT served as the only certifying entity for EHR systems.

However, the work group's recommendations would allow other organizations to enter the certification market (Brewin, Nextgov.com, 8/14).

The work group said CCHIT has an overly detailed certification process and is too closely aligned with the health IT industry (Health Data Management, 8/14).

The trade group Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society helped found CCHIT, and the commission's members include several people with ties to HIMSS and health IT companies (Washington Post, 8/15).

The panel said, "While we did not see any evidence that vendors were exerting undue influence on CCHIT, we also understand that the appearance of a conflict is important to address" (Health Data Management, 8/14).

Mark Leavitt, head of CCHIT, said that the commission would play a different role in the new health IT landscape but would continue to certify health IT systems according to HHS standards. He added that CCHIT also will provide technical advice to the government and offer a "higher level of certification" to help health care providers select the best IT systems (Washington Post, 8/15).

Certification During the Transition

During their meeting, the Policy Committee also proposed a transition plan to help health IT vendors develop products that meet the 2011 meaningful use requirements.

Under the "Preliminary HHS Certification" process, which could be offered by October 2009, CCHIT likely would provide interim certification for EHR vendors.

The plan would invite CCHIT to submit a proposal for developing the preliminary certification process.

The Policy Committee also approved a plan to grant "gap certification" to vendors that received 2008 CCHIT certification. The plan would require such vendors to update their products to meet 2011 criteria (Lipowicz, Federal Computer Week, 8/14).

The preliminary certification proposal also would allow health care providers to move forward on planning, purchasing and implementing EHR systems as federal officials continue to finalize the meaningful use criteria (Mosquera, Government Health IT, 8/14).

'Meaningful Use' Compliance

Meanwhile, CMS is considering various options for ensuring compliance with the meaningful use requirements.

Some proposals include electronic data submission, self-reporting and synchronization with Medicare directives.

Tony Trenkle, director of CMS' Office of E-Health Standards and Services, said CMS will not propose any compliance procedures that it cannot manage on its own computer systems (Goedert [2], Health Data Management, 8/14).


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