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ONC Issues Final Rule for HIT Permanent Certification Program

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, January 4, 2011

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has issued a final rule  to establish the permanent certification program for electronic health records, which includes new guidelines to boost their scope, transparency, reliability, and efficiency, the agency has announced.

"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," said David Blumenthal, MD, national coordinator for health information technology. "Our goal is to make the transition to the permanent certification program as seamless as possible."

Meaningful use of "Certified EHR Technology" is a core requirement for healthcare providers who want incentive payments from the federal government.

The temporary certification program, issued on June 24, 2010, will be in effect until it sunsets on Dec. 31, 2011, or until permanent certification program processes are completed. ONC said it will roll out implementation programs for the permanent certification program throughout 2011.

Under the permanent certification program:

  • Organizations must first be accredited to test and certify HIT;
  • Certification bodies authorized by the National Coordinator-Authorized Certification Bodies must conduct post-certification surveillance;
  • ONC-ACBs are permitted to perform "gap certification." 

ONC said it will ask the National Institute of Standards and Technology and its National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program to develop a laboratory accreditation program to test HIT for permanent certification.     


John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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