Federally funded payments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) are available for qualifying health care providers under either Medicare or Medicaid programs. All (Medicare) or the majority (Medicaid) of payments under either plan require “meaningful use” of an EMR system accredited by a proper electronic health record (EHR) or electronic medical record (EMR) certification authority as established by the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provides HHS with the authority to establish programs to improve health care quality, safety, and efficiency through the promotion of health information technology, including EHR / EMRs.
As of January, 2012, EHR / EMR certification authorities, or Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ATCBs) are qualifying under a “temporary” certification program established in June, 2010. The temporary certification program is administered by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). These temporary ONC certification will stay in effect until the final EMR is established, which is expected to occur in the first half of 2012.
An organization wishing to become an EMR certification authority under the temporary EMR certification program must submit an application to the ONC to demonstrate its ability to test and certify EMRs and/or EMR Modules. As of January, 20121, there are six such ONC – ATCBs, and they charge EMR vendors for EMR certification and testing.
- Surescripts: EHR Modules—E-Prescribing, Privacy and Security
- ICSA Labs: Complete EHR and EHR Modules
- SLI Global Solutions: Complete EHR and EHR Modules
- Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT): Complete EHR and EHR Modules
- Drummond Group: Complete EHR and EHR Modules
Transition from Temporary to Permanent Certification
In June 2011, ONC approved the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as the ONC – Approved Accreditor (AA) for the Permanent Certification Program. The ONC – AA will accredit organizations to become Authorized Certification Bodies (ONC-ACBs) which can certify electronic health record technology under the permanent certification program. Approval of the ONC-AA is one of the initial steps in the implementation of the permanent certification program, which is anticipated to replace the temporary certification program in 2012. Certification bodies authorized under the temporary certification program (ONC-ATCB) will not automatically become ONC-ACBs. They must apply for and obtain accreditation from the ONC-AA for permanent certification approving authority.
ONC-ATCB tested and certified EHR technology, which was certified under the temporary certification program, will remain certified once the permanent certification program replaces the temporary certification program. The change in certification programs will not affect the certified status of EMR technology at the time of change. However, new or modified EHR certification criteria will likely be adopted by HHS to support meaningful use Stages 2 and 3. Therefore, as a result, certifications under temporary certification rules issued by ONC-ATCBs will not necessarily indicate a Complete EHR or EHR Module can provide all of the capabilities necessary under the permanent rules for an eligible professional qualify for a future stage of meaningful use. In particular, the transition to ICD-10 diagnoses and procedure coding is expected to be a requirement for later phase meaningful use criteria.