Now that the HHS has issued two sets of long-awaited and much-anticipated federal regulations on list of "meaningful use" criteria that healthcare providers must meet to qualify for federal IT subsidies and the standards and certification criteria that those EHRs must meet for their users to receive the EMR incentives, one is left wondering what is the real value of CCHIT certification and do those EMR vendors who went in for CCHIT certification and spent over $40000 each for the certification without waiting for the meaningful use get any headstart?
Here is a summary of an article that was published by Modern Healthcare today:
CCHIT may have had close ties to HHS in the past but that is history. David Blumenthal, the current head of the ONC, in a meeting was responding to a question about existing CCHIT certifications of Electronic Health Records and HHS' prior recognition of CCHIT as a certifying body.
Blumenthal mentioned that to qualify to receive incentive payments, the EHR would have to be certified by a body certified by the Office of the National Coordinator and that ONC is working towards creating a process to recognize that body.
Blumenthal mentioned that even though CCHIT was recognized in the past as a certifying body, its future status will be governed by the regulatory process that is ongoing right now. He termed as premature the talk about the implications of any particular set of certification criteria that CCHIT or anybody else has put forward or will put forward.
Mark Segal, Vice Chairman of the Electronic Health Record Association of HIMSS said the stimulus law, gives the ONC the authority to go ahead and retroactively accept any EHR systems certified under the old CCHIT process as certified under the new stimulus law provisions.
The ONC rule-makers explained the rationale behind this decision to scrap the previously accepted certification criteria and process. HHS, they wrote, decided not to accept CCHIT certification criteria due to "our approach of aligning adopted certification criteria with the proposed definition of meaningful use."
Segal said there still are "a reasonable expectation that CCHIT will be one of those" organizations that will again be recognized by the ONC. He also mentioned that CCHIT certification criteria come quite close to matching those new criteria being developed by the ONC. As a result, if an EHR is already certified up until now means it already has a lot of the functionality in place.
I do believe that the EMR Vendors who spent the time and financial resources in advance of the recent formal release of regulations, they are at an advantage as compared to a large number of vendors who do not have any certification, whatsoever. A number of smaller EMR vendors got certified in 2006, but as the competition is heating up, are already on the way to getting their EHR certified under the CCHIT 2011 Certification Program.
As I have earlier mentioned in another blog of mine, just because a Physician implements a Certified EMR does not mean that it is used in a meaningful manner, one of the EHR selection criteria must therefore include the ease with which the EHR allows demonstration of meaningful use to CMS.