The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) signed into law by President Barack Obama on February 17, 2009, specifically provides $17.2 billion in financial incentives designed to facilitate the widespread implementation of "certified" Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems into physician practices and hospitals. Physicians, facilities, and other providers will receive money through Medicare or Medicaid programs for their "meaningful use" of EHRs.
Note the use of two terms in the paragraph above - ‘Certified' and ‘Meaningful use'. For the purposes of this blog, we will confine our self to the definition of ‘Certified' EHR (aka Certified EMR Software) as it has been evolving.
Certification Agency for EMR Software
Even though CCHIT or Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology had not been explicitly mentioned under ARRA, it had been widely believed that CCHIT will be named as the certification agency. The Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT®) is a private, non-profit organization formed to certify electronic health records (EHRs), aka electronic medical records (EMRs) against roughly 475 criteria spanning EMR functionality, interoperability and security. But the situation has undergone a sea change since August 2009.
By mid-August, the ONCHIT's Policy Committee had approved a final version of the Matrix that would serve as the basis for EHR certification as mandated by ARRA. The criteria are not consistent with those used by CCHIT to certify EHRs. They are outcomes-oriented, while CCHIT's criteria are feature, structure and process-oriented.
In 3rd week of August 2009, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would almost certainly assume responsibility for deciding which electronic health record systems qualify for bonus payouts under Medicare, as required by ARRA.
In August 2009, the Health IT Policy Committee also adopted recommendations that called for multiple entities to certify EHR systems. The certification and adoption work group said it envisions the establishment of 10 to 12 different EHR certification groups, in addition to CCHIT.
CCHIT to provide Interim Certification
The Policy Committee also proposed a transition plan to help health IT vendors develop products that meet the 2011 meaningful use requirements.
Under the "Preliminary HHS Certification" process, CCHIT likely would provide interim certification for EHR vendors. The transition plan would invite CCHIT to submit a proposal for developing the preliminary certification process.
As you can see, the certification process has been evolving rapidly. We will keep our readers posted with the developments as they occur.
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