CCHIT, one of six federally sanctioned EHR testing and certification bodies, on Tuesday published its certification criteria and test scripts for obstetrics, oncology, and clinical research, bringing to seven the number of specialties the organization now covers.
CCHIT will begin accepting online applications for the new programs on June 2. Nine vendors have already participated in pilots of the new testing, the Chicago-based commission said.
While the Medicare and Medicaid incentive program for "meaningful use" of EHRs requires hospitals and doctors to use certified technology, the CCHIT add-on testing falls outside the federal standards for the first stage of meaningful use. But commission chair Dr. Karen Bell said that the optional certification still may be a good idea.
"There are multiple reasons why you do certification," said Bell, a former deputy coordinator in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
In addition to meaningful use, certification can protect consumers, according to Bell, by helping providers demonstrate to the public that their technology meets national standards. A stamp of approval also can show that an EHR module will support patient care and care processes. "That's really the part that meshes with our specialty certification programs," Bell said of the latter.
Bell, who is trained in internal medicine, said the commission is particularly excited about certifying EHRs for clinical research. "Physician practices will find it a lot easier to identify patients for clinical trials and to participate in clinical research," Bell said. "I've done a lot of this on paper, and this is very burdensome on paper."
Bell would not say how much CCHIT will charge for certifying systems in women's health, oncology, or clinical research, but indicated that the test fee will be similar to that of other add-on modules. The commission will release further details during a public webcast at 4 p.m. EDT on June 2.
The testing itself should take less than half a day per specialty module, according to Bell.
In related news, the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology announced Tuesday that the implementation workgroup of the advisory Health Information Technology Standards Committee is taking public comments through June 17 on the current state of EHR certification. "The workgroup’s goal is to obtain feedback on the process for communicating the testing and certification criteria, as well as for testing and certifying the EHR technology," ONC said in a public email.
Current certification rules are considered temporary; ONC is to have a permanent plan in place by the beginning of 2011.
Interested parties may submit comments via ONC's Federal Advisory Committee Blog or by filling out and e-mailing a form available on the blog.
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