While most of the attention in the health information technology industry last week was focused on the newly proposed Stage 2 standards that providers would have to meet to achieve meaningful use of electronic health-record systems, a companion proposed rule affecting EHR vendors and the organizations that test and certify them also was made public.
Proposed new EHR certification rules released
The 184-page proposed rule, officially titled "Health Information Technology: Standards, Implementation Specifications, and Certification Criteria for Electronic Health Record Technology, 2014 Edition; Revisions to the Permanent Certification Program for Health Information Technology," was released Friday by HHS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
The ONC-developed rule sets the standards that EHRs must meet to become certified and thus eligible for use by hospitals, physicians and other qualifying professionals seeking to become meaningful users and receive federal EHR incentive payments under the Medicare and Medicaid programs created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The new rule, effective in 2014, would govern changes needed to EHR systems to meet Stage 2 criteria, as well as modifications to Stage 1 criteria included in the new Stage 2 meaningful-use proposed rule.
Perhaps the most significant change in the proposed rule on standards is the redefining of certified EHR technology, undertaken in response to comments about the Stage 1 certification program, according to the proposed rule's authors. Providers and other stakeholders requested "flexibility to have only the EHR technology they need to demonstrate (meaningful use)," the authors wrote.
Under the current certification rule, hospitals and eligible professionals must have EHR technology "that has been tested and certified to all applicable certification criteria adopted for the setting (ambulatory or inpatient) for which it was designed."
Many commenters, however, indicated this was cumbersome and didn't fit some practice needs, according to the authors. These commenters requested that the certification rules be changed to give them the flexibility to qualify for incentives having only the certified EHR technology they will use to demonstrate meaningful use.
The 60-day public comment period on the standards opens with the proposed rule's official publication in the Federal Register, slated for March 7.
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