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New EHR certification rule draws a crowd

We’ve known for quite some time that electronic health record (EHR) certification would soon cease to be a one-pony show. We just didn’t expect the derby to get so crowded.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act set in motion a process to open up EHR certification, which previously had been handled solely by the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT). In the months after the HITECH Act was signed, only two groups — CCHIT and the Drummond Group Inc. — publicly expressed interest in EHR certification.

That has changed. In an audio conference last week, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which released a final rule on the temporary EHR certification process two weeks ago, said it had received 15 formal and 40 informal inquiries from potential EHR testing bodies before the actual applications were released. This certainly does not mean that 55 organizations will apply, but it does suggest significant interest.

During the audio conference, the ONC suggested that the new process essentially represents a paradigm shift, with the use of certified EHR now tied to meaningful use, and certification now available for EHR modules as well as complete EHR systems. Further shifts are ahead, too: The final rule for the permanent EHR certification process is due before year’s end.

All in all, it appears that EHR vendors will have plenty of choices when it comes to submitting products for certification; that should in turn result in more products being certified. Given the rush among providers and hospitals to achieve meaningful use, such a development is hardly unwelcome.

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