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1/4/2011
02:58 PM
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HHS Unveils Final Health IT Certification Rules

The Office of National Coordinator for Health IT has published permanent regulations for organizations authorized to test and certify health IT products for meaningful use.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released a final rule to establish a permanent certification program for e-health records and other health IT products.

The new permanent certification program "will eventually replace" the temporary certification program that's been in place since last June, said the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) in a statement.

While the new permanent certification program does not impact the criteria and standards used to evaluate and certify e-health record and other health IT products, the new program clarifies the rules for the handful of organizations that provide the testing and certification.

Healthcare providers must meaningfully use "certified" health IT in order to be eligible for Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) financial rewards that are estimated to total more than $20 billion.

The permanent certification program "provides new features that will enhance the certification of health information technology, including increasing the comprehensiveness, transparency, reliability, and efficiency of the current processes used for the certification of electronic health record (EHR) technology," said Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health IT, in a statement.

The less detailed temporary certification program unveiled last year aimed to help healthcare providers get a jump start in making EHR purchase and rollout decisions in order to qualify starting in 2011 for financial incentives for the meaningful use of health IT.

Testing and certification under the permanent certification program is expected to begin on Jan. 1, 2012 "or upon a subsequent date when the National Coordinator determines that the permanent certification program is fully constituted," according to the 227-page final rule published Monday in the Federal Register.

To date under the temporary program, there are about a half dozen organizations that have been deemed by ONC as "authorized certification bodies," or ONC-ACBs, to test and/or certify that EHR products, including modules and comprehensive packages, meet interoperability and other standards and requirements to facilitate ONC's meaningful use criteria.

Those organizations authorized under the temporary program will need to reapply for authorization under the permanent certification program.

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