WASHINGTON – There are no set appropriations for how much the federal government can spend on rewarding providers who adopt and use electronic health records under the Medicare and Medicaid meaningful use EHRincentive program, according to National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, MD.
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Even though the new regime for testing and certifying electronic health-record systems under the federal EHR incentive program won't take effect until October—and testing against newly released criteria might not begin until year's end—federal authorities have given five organizations the OK to certify software for that program.
HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has authorized the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, the Drummond Group, ICSA Labs, InfoGard Laboratories and Orion Register to serve as certification bodies under the EHR incentive payment program, according to ONC spokesman Peter Ashkenaz. The program was established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
C. Sue Reber, spokeswoman for one of the five, the Chicago-based CCHIT, said the news came in a conference call with the ONC on Tuesday.
In July, all five organizations were accredited by the American National Standards Institute as certification bodies and by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program as accredited testing laboratories for EHR systems.
Most office-based physicians who have adopted electronic health records are satisfied with the systems they have chosen and have noted improved patient care, according to a survey by the Department of Health and Human Services.
According to one recent report, the future looks unsteady for small primary care practices with 10 doctors or fewer. In fact, more than a quarter of those surveyed could foresee themselves closing up shop within the next year, according to the survey from MDLinx.
HHS today named CCHIT (Certification Commission for Health Information Technology), and the Drummond Group, Austin, Texas, as organizations qualified to test and certify electronic health-record systems as capable of meeting meaningful-use criteria under the federal IT subsidy program established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The federal Health IT Policy Committee has recommended that health IT vendors use labels to clarify that their EHR Software is certified to satisfy first-stage requirements for meaningful use in order to ward off potential confusion among buyers about whether systems they are considering will qualify them for the incentive program.
HHS issued two sets of much-anticipated federal regulations that significantly further the government's healthcare information technology adoption agenda. The first set of regulations lists the "meaningful use" criteria that healthcare providers must meet to qualify for federal IT subsidies based on how they use their electronic health records. The second set of regulations lays out the standards and certification criteria that those EHRs must meet for their users to collect the money.
He announced that meaningful use criteria (from CMS) would be coming within weeks, with electronic health records certification plans in early 2010. Those rules had been expected along with meaningful use rules by the end of 2009.