Workgroup Recommends Widening EHR Certification

CCHIT, the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, has been the sole certification source for electronic health record products for some years now, but ARRA may change that. A working group of the Health IT Policy Committee has recommended that multiple organizations conduct certification testing and that the federal government take over the setting of certification criteria.

The ARRA provision that will pay Medicare and Medicaid bonuses to providers who are “meaningful users” of health IT has put heightened focus on certification. Meaningful use has yet to be fully defined, but it will certainly include certified products.

The workgroup presented its recommendations at the policy committee’s July 16 meeting, suggesting that the government widen certification to include more system types than CCHIT currently covers, assume responsibility for establishing certification criteria, and create a process for accrediting multiple organizations to perform certification testing. ARRA established the committee to advise the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, part of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for refining and managing the incentive program.

The workgroup’s recommendations are based on its review of existing processes and two days of invited testimony from both software developers and purchasers.

The group offered five basic recommendations:

  • Focus certification on meaningful use requirements
  • Leverage the certification process to improve progress on security, privacy, and interoperability. Certification would address all privacy and security policies described in ARRA and promote interoperability among systems, something that current CCHIT certification does not, according to the testimony.
  • Improve objectivity and transparency of the certification process, in part by separating the process of establishing criteria from actual testing of it. The Office of the National Coordinator should manage certification criteria, the group recommended, and develop a process for accrediting and selecting multiple organizations to perform testing. 
  • Expand certification to include a range of software sources. This would include open-source and self-developed systems and extend to system components. 
  • Create a short-term term transition plan to the new process. 

The policy committee delayed accepting the recommendations in full, instead requesting clarification on details. The revisions are expected by the committee’s August meeting.

Once approved by the full committee, the recommendations will go out for public comment. Final recommendations will be submitted to the Office of the National Coordinator.

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