The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) announced today that it has issued a final rule establishing a permanent health IT certification program. Six months ago, the ONC established a temporary health IT certification program to give health care providers a chance to demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record systems in time to receive federal incentive money for EHR adoption.
“This final rule completes the two-phased approach ONC began with the proposed rule issued in spring 2010, and includes several important improvements to our certification processes,” Dr. David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for health IT, stated in a press release. The temporary certification program will continue to operate until Dec. 31, 2011, assuming all the necessary processes are in place for the permanent certification program to begin operations in January 2012. The ONC aims to make the transition as seamless as possible, it says.
The permanent health IT certification program includes some new features:
- ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies (ONC-ACBs) must be accredited before they can begin to test and certify health IT.
- ONC-ACBs are required to conduct post-certification surveillance.
- ONC-ACBs may perform “gap certification” when the Secretary of Health & Human Services adopts new or revised certification criteria. Gap certification will allow previously certified systems to be tested and certified to only the applicable new or revised certification criteria.
One accreditation organization (ONC-Approved Accreditor or ONC-AA) will be approved through a competitive process to accredit certification bodies. The ONC-AA will be selected every three years. Existing certification bodies (ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies, or ONC-ATCBs) authorized under the temporary certification program must first be accredited to become ONC-ACBs. Hopefully that process won’t be too difficult, because there already are six designated certification bodies, with possibly more to come in 2011.