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Certification rule released at HIMSS10 annual conference

ATLANTA — The Office of the National Coordinator released its much-anticipated proposed rule outlining the certification program for health information technology during a town hall meeting at the HIMSS10 annual conference.

Released at a modest 184 pages, the certification programs proposed rule provides details of two accreditation programs. There will be a temporary certification process so that vendors can be certified in time to implement technology standards and help providers meet stage 1 meaningful use criteria, as well as a permanent process. The permanent certification process will focus on the future stages of the health IT roll out, and will replace the temporary program.The proposed rule also outlines how the ONC will accredit eligible organizations.

During the temporary program, an organization may apply to both test electronic health records products and then certify that those products meet federally mandated criteria. Under the permanent process, organizations that wish to certify technology will have to apply for two separate accreditations: testing accreditation and certifying accreditation, according to David Blumenthal, the physician who heads the Office of the National Coordinator.

Separating the testing and certifying processes is a standard practice in other industries, and following that same method in health care was a recommendation of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Blumenthal said after the HIMSS session. “NIST was heavily influential in our decision,” he said.

Previously, the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology was the only recognized certifying body for vendor products. The new accreditation process opens the opportunity for any eligible organization to become a certifying body. CCHIT was established “in a different time” of health IT, and now the ONC is moving in a different direction, Blumenthal said. “We want to make it a world-class process” that follows international practices.

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