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Proposed EHR Certification Program Won't Inhibit Innovation, Says Blumenthal

Andrea Kraynak, for HealthLeaders Media, March 3, 2010

Is your EHR meaningful use-compliant? Healthcare providers may soon be able to find out for sure.

HHS released a proposed rule Tuesday for establishing certification programs for health information technology. The proposed rule describes the creation of a certification program for EHRs, as mandated by the HITECH Act.

EHR certification is designed to "give purchasers and users of EHR technology assurances that the technology and products have the necessary functionality and security to help meet meaningful use criteria," according to a press release from the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology.

When writing the interim final rule on standards and certification criteria for EHRs, the ONC strived to balance competing agendas, David Blumenthal, MD, MPP, the national coordinator for health information technology, said today at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2010 Annual Conference and Exhibition in Atlanta.

For example, it tries to balance the need for uniform standards against the need for interoperability and innovation and the need for an efficient way to exchange information versus patients' rights to privacy. The agency tried to allow for flexibility, to meet providers "where they are," and not inhibit "critical innovation," he said.

Similar to the multi-stage approach proposed for the EHR meaningful use incentive program, the proposed establishment of an EHR certification process would also occur in various phases.

  • The first phase would be a temporary certification process whereby the National Coordinator would approve organizations to test and certify EHRs.

  • The eventual permanent program would transfer testing and certification fully to private sector organizations and separate the two functions.

The separation of those two functions is an important aspect, Blumenthal said. It allows certification of not only completed EHRs, but also of individual modules, a move designed to allow architectural innovation.

The proposed permanent program also has requirements for accreditation and addresses the potential certification of health information technology (HIT) other than complete EHRs and EHR modules.

HHS anticipates issuing separate final rules for each of the two programs.

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