At long last, permanent EHR certification is on track. Vendors, hospitals and ambulatory physicians now know the process has begun in earnest — a key step in unlocking all those federal incentive dollars in the last two stages of meaningful use.
A couple months back, ONC tapped the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to oversee the certification bodies that will approve EHR systems. Last week, ANSI announced that it would begin accepting applications for companies seeking to certify EHRs under the permanent certification program. At present, “certified EHR” is only a temporary thing that, in effect, gets health care providers through stage 1.
The HITECH Act requires the certification program to be in place by Jan. 1, 2012. ANSI said in a press release that the first accreditations for certification bodies would likely be handed out in 2012. Standards and regulations with which certification bodies must comply to receive accreditation include:
- ISO/IEC Guide 65 – General requirements for bodies operating product certification systems
- IAF Guidance on the application of ISO/IEC Guide 65
- ANSI Policy – PL – 102 – Manual of Operations for Accreditation of Product Certification Programs
- 45 CFR Part 170 – Health Information Technology Standards, Implementation Specifications, and Certification Criteria and Certification Programs for Health Information Technology
Those interested in applying to be permanent certification bodies have until Oct. 7 to apply; to obtain an application, contact ANSI’s Reinaldo Figueiredo (firstname.lastname@example.org; 202-331-3611) or Nikki Jackson (email@example.com; 202-331-3623).
In an unrelated announcement, ANSI announced it would team up with the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) to develop international HIT standards. AHIMA will serve as the administrator for the International Organization for Standardization’s Technical Committee 215 (ISO/TC 215), which ANSI oversees as secretariat.
The technical committee, while it has no official regulatory power, develops standards for health data and interoperability. Those standards find their way into practice through support by professional organizations and through regulations when governments mandate their use or cite them as recommended best practices in guidance documents — such as in stage 1 of meaningful use. Either way, having AHIMA’s experienced hand at the data-standards tiller will be a relief to many in the health care sector as standards for electronic health data exchange evolve in the coming months en route to nationwide implementation by ambulatory and hospital physicians from coast to coast.