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deems user friendly and compatible with current workfl ow. And, of course, one system might work well for one provider while a different system could be the right choice for another. As such, providers still need to evaluate products to determine what will ultimately serve their organizations in terms of specialty-focused functionality, features, usability/workfl ow operations and price.

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The difference: Certifi cation vs. meaningful use The fact that certifi cation is closely linked to meaning- ful use has caused an anxiety spike as well. Simply put, certifi cation measures the functionality of EHR software, while meaningful use measures a provider’s implementa- tion of the said software. For example, to be certifi ed, an EHR solution has to have the capability to maintain an active medication list. To meet meaningful-use require- ments, a provider needs to leverage the active medication list so that more than 80 percent of patients have at least one entry recorded as structured data.


It is vital that providers understand how to implement their certifi ed EHR technologies so that they can meet the CMS thresholds for meaningful use. As such, providers should ask vendors to go beyond simply ensuring that their products offer the functionality required for certifi cation – and also insist that vendors work closely with them to ensure that they can tap into this functionality to meet meaningful-use requirements.

Of course, the issue becomes more complex when pro- viders act as both software developer and implementer. Indeed, many hospitals are in the process of creating their own self-developed EHR systems – and are trying to get them certified under the ONC program. At the same time, they need to deploy this software in a meaningful way to meet the ARRA requirements. As such, these providers need to keep in mind that when they are devel- oping the software, it needs to be able to meet all of the potential meaningful-use requirements, even though the provider might only use a subset of this functionality in pursuit of incentive funds. For example, a certified EHR technology must include functionality for immunization submission and be certified in this criteria even if the provider is not planning on pursuing this meaningful-use menu measure.

Certifi cation: The long-term benefi ts Although certifi cation might be causing some unrest as the healthcare industry grapples with the concept, it eventually will bring about plenty of benefi ts. To start, certifi cation is likely to take costs out of the software development process. When providers purchase a certi- 27

fi ed pro

that the software can deliver on its promis

software that has not been certifi ed, the

In addition, certifi ed EHR soft- ware is much more likely to evolve to be interoperable with other sys-

unnecessary costs. In

ware to be

tems and to include security features that protect the privacy of information. Interoperability is poised to play an increasingly important role as these meaningful-use requirements continue to evolve. For example, Stage 1 meaningful use requires that providers demonstrate the capability to electronically exchange clinical information. Additional interoperability requirements are expected to follow in the Stage 2 and 3 requirements. In the fi nal analysis, certifi cation could also spur additional EHR innovation. As more software vendors meet certifi cation requirements, they will be able to move on and create the innovative features that differentiate their systems and make them ultimately more valuable to end users.

tems and to include secu privacy of information. Int

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ed product, they have an assurance that th

promises. When providers purchase softwa ey o

vendor to “debug” the solution and as

ask for modifi cations, which adds unne

they often need to go back to the vendo sk f

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