First two EHR certification bodies named

September 16, 2010

The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology and the Drummond Group Inc. are the first two technology review bodies authorized by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to test and certify electronic health record systems for compliance with the standards and certification criteria that were issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year. Applications for additional certification bodies also are under review.

The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology and the Drummond Group Inc. are the first two technology review bodies authorized by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to test and certify electronic health record (EHR) systems for compliance with the standards and certification criteria that were issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year. Applications for additional certification bodies also are under review.

The announcement means that EHR vendors now can begin to have their products certified as meeting criteria to support meaningful use.

"This is a crucial step because it ensures that certified EHR products will be available to support the achievement of the required meaningful use objectives, that these products will be aligned with one another on key standards, and that doctors and hospitals can invest with confidence in these certified systems," said David Blumenthal, MD, national coordinator for health information technology.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, also known as the HITECH Act, created new incentive payment programs designed to help healthcare providers transition from paper-based medical records to EHRs. Individual physicians and other eligible professionals can receive up to $44,000 through Medicare and almost $64,000 through Medicaid. To qualify for the incentive payments, providers must not only adopt, but also demonstrate meaningful use of, certified EHR systems.

"Multiple steps are under way to carry out the intent of Congress in supporting rapid and effective adoption of EHRs throughout our healthcare system," Blumenthal said. "The naming of initial ONC-authorized testing and certification bodies (ONC-ATCBs) is one important step. Actual certification of multiple vendors' systems by the ONC-ATCBs is an important next step.

"CMS is also working to create an online system for providers to register and attest for the EHR incentive programs," he continued. "The first incentive payments are targeted to be made in May 2011. Meanwhile, ONC is also carrying out new programs of technical assistance and training, especially for smaller hospitals and physician practices."