The CMS' final rule to set Stage 2 meaningful-use criteria for the federal electronic health-record incentive payment program won't be published until mid-2012. And now, midsummer also is the revised expected launch time for a permanent program to accredit the organizations that will test and certify EHR systems as capable of meeting Stage 2 criteria.
ONC delays permanent certification program
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology published in the Federal Register today an official announcement that it will delay by six months the end of its current, temporary testing and certification program and its replacement by the permanent program.
The delay is necessary to align the EHR testing and certification program with the release of the final Stage 2 meaningful-use rules as well as to ensure there will be sufficient numbers of testing and certification bodies accredited under the permanent program to meet vendor demand, according to the ONC's notice. The ONC is tasked with establishing an EHR testing and certification program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which also created the EHR incentive payment programs under Medicare and Medicaid.
The ONC decision to delay the start of the permanent accreditation and testing program will likely have little impact on providers seeking to attest to and be paid for meeting meaningful-use targets under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive payment programs.
Currently, under the temporary program, six organizations have been authorized to both test and certify EHRs as capable of meeting meaningful-use requirements. They will continue their work at least through June and will have up to six more months to complete testing and certification of EHR systems whose vendors applied before the June sunset deadline, according to the notice.
Pursuant to the bifurcated process contemplated in the permanent rule, the American National Standards Institute will step in as the ONC-approved accreditor, with the authority to accredit those organizations that certify EHR systems as capable of meeting meaningful-use standards under the stimulus law.
Meanwhile, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, through its National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program, will accredit organizations to test EHRs and their component modules for meaningful-use capabilities.
"We believe aligning the sunset of the temporary certification program with the effective date of this forthcoming (Stage 2) final rule would provide certainty to healthcare providers, EHR technology developers and other stakeholders while also ensuring a sufficient number of accredited testing laboratories and (certification bodies) exist to meet market demand," according to the notice. "We base this conclusion on ANSI and NVLAP's estimations of the amount of time needed to complete the accreditation of certification bodies and testing laboratories, as well as our estimation of the time period for the national coordinator to review the applications of accredited certification bodies and subsequently authorize them."
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.