The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has issued the final rule for its temporary certification program for electronic health record (EHR) technology. The final rule is effective immediately and follows the release of the proposed rule in March.
The ONC’s EHR certification program establishes a process by which EHR vendors submit their software for testing and certification. Hospitals and other eligible health care providers must use certified EHR software in order to demonstrate the meaningful use of EHR and qualify for federal incentives under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.
Because of the immediacy of meeting meaningful use requirements, the ONC has actually put two EHR certification programs into place. Under the temporary program, EHR vendors will submit their software to one agency for both testing and certification. Under the permanent program, which will be in place no earlier than Jan. 1, 2012, vendors will submit their software to separate bodies for testing and certification. Such a process more closely mimics standard government and industry practices.
Under the final temporary rule, the application process for organizations interested in becoming an Authorized Testing and Certification Body, abbreviated ONC-ATCB, begins July 1. According to the EHR certification FAQ, applications will be reviewed and processed “immediately.”
Based on that timeline, the first certified EHR software should hit the market this fall, the ONC’s Carol Bean told Government Health IT. All such products will be compiled into the Certified Health IT Product List (CHPL), pronounced “chapel” and maintained by the ONC.
No limit will be placed on the number of ONC-ATCB applicants. The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, or CCHIT — which had been the lone EHR software certification body before the HITECH Act affirmed the ONC’s intention to open up the process — issued a statement that it will apply to be an ONC-ATCB as soon as applications are available. In addition, the Drummond Group Inc. said months ago that it intends to apply, though it has not yet made an official announcement.
The final temporary EHR certification rule (seen in full text or in graphics) precedes the final rule for federal meaningful use requirements. Officials had hinted that the final rules for certification, meaningful use and EHR software standards would arrive simultaneously. The meaningful use rule, which received more than 2,000 comments, is expected any day now.