ONC Names Five Permanent EHR Certifiers

Posted on by Frank J. Rosello

Even though the new regime for testing and certifying electronic health-record systems under the federal EHR incentive program won’t take effect until October—and testing against newly released criteria might not begin until year’s end—federal authorities have given five organizations the OK to certify software for that program.

HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has authorized the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, the Drummond Group, ICSA Labs, InfoGard Laboratories and Orion Register to serve as certification bodies under the EHR incentive payment program, according to ONC spokesman Peter Ashkenaz. The program was established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

C. Sue Reber, spokeswoman for one of the five, the Chicago-based CCHIT, said the news came in a conference call with the ONC on Tuesday, August 28th.

In July, all five organizations were accredited by the American National Standards Institute as certification bodies and by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program as accredited testing laboratories for EHR systems.

Back in January 2011, the ONC published a final rule creating permanent and separate EHR testing and certification programs for the incentive payment programs run by Medicare and state Medicaid agencies. The permanent programs replace a temporary testing and certification regime set up to get the EHR incentive program off the ground. Under the temporary program, EHR testing and certification functions were combined and performed by the same organizations.

Under the new regime, it is still possible for the same organization to perform both testing and certification, but the procedures to receive authorization to do both are now separate, and the organizations must maintain a “firewall” between those functions, according to the ONC, which has an explanation of the program on its website.

CCHIT will continue to offer testing and certification services under the temporary program until the Oct. 4 effective date of the permanent program, and after that will continue to test and certify systems under the initial, Stage 1 certification criteria.

New testing and certification criteria for what’s being called the 2014 edition were released in a new final rule by ONC last week. CCHIT said it would incorporate those new criteria into its programs “as soon as ONC releases approved testing procedures,” which are expected to be available at the end of the year.

Article written by Joseph Conn with Modern Healthcare.com

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