Meaningful Use

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) issued a final rule on Jan. 3, 2011 to establish the permanent certification program for health information technology (HIT). The program provides new features that will enhance the certification of HIT, including “increasing the comprehensiveness, transparency, reliability and efficiency of the current processes used for the certification of electronic health-record (EHR) technology.”

Meaningful use of “certified EHR technology” is a core requirement for eligible healthcare providers who seek to qualify to receive incentive payments under the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs as authorized by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.

“This final rule completes the two-phased approach ONC began with the proposed rule issued in spring 2010 and includes several important improvements to our certification processes,” says David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P., national coordinator for health information technology. “Our goal is to make the transition to the permanent certification program as seamless as possible.”

The temporary certification program, established through a final rule published on June 24, 2010, will continue to be in effect until it sunsets on Dec. 31, 2011, or at a later date when the processes necessary for the permanent certification program to operate are completed.

Features of the permanent certification program include: Organizations must first be accredited in order to test and/or certify health information technology; Certification bodies authorized by the National Coordinator (ONC-authorized certification bodies or ONC-ACBs) are required to conduct post-certification surveillance; and ONC-ACBs are permitted to perform “gap certification.”

ONC is requesting that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), through its National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP), develop a laboratory accreditation program for organizations to be accredited to test health information technology for purposes of the permanent certification program.
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