HHS Issues Proposed Rule for Certifying EHRs

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hhsThe Health and Human Services Department and the National Institute of Standards and Technology are creating a program that will enable vendors to obtain certifications for their electronic health record systems, so they can qualify for economic stimulus law incentives.

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on March 2, the HHS described the two-phase certification program that will test and certify EHRs. The program involves temporary and permanent parts. The temporary program ensures that certified EHR products are available in time for purchase by eligible hospitals and doctors. The providers must buy and use those certified systems to qualify for the $17 billion in stimulus law incentive payments. Under the law, those payments will begin in October 2010.

Under the temporary certification process, the national coordinator for health IT would authorize organizations to assume testing and certification responsibilities. The temporary program ceases once the permanent program begins.

According to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the national coordinator can name several organizations to conduct the certifications. Currently, the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology is the only organization that certifies EHRs.

In response to the proposed rule, CCHIT’s Executive Director Alisa Ray said the agency is confident about its prospects of becoming accredited.

“CCHIT has four years of experience testing and certifying EHRs, and promptly adapting our testing to the latest federal standards,” she said. “We have also been benchmarking our operations against best practices for certifying bodies, including the ISO/IEC accreditation standards, and we are well prepared. We plan to file an application with ONC as soon as they are ready to accept them.”

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