Healthcare providers looking to upgrade to the latest government-approved electronic health record systems got a signal this week that the products are in the pipeline, though they may be six or more months away from reaching the market.
Epic Systems of Verona, Wis., has successfully tested and received certification against new federal criteria for three functional elements of its popular EHR system used by hospitals and office-based physicians, according to the Certified Health IT Product List, an official website kept by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
The posting is another milestone in the $34.5 billion EHR incentive program as it moves into its seventh year and its third and final stage.
It's the first listing of health IT tested under the ONC's so-called 2015 Edition EHR criteria. Providers are required to use this upgraded technology to meet their upcoming Stage 3 meaningful use obligations of the federal EHR incentive payment program. Those obligations don't kick in until 2018, although providers can try and meet the more stringent meaningful use measures on an “optional” basis next year if they so choose. Medicare reimbursement penalties await those providers who fail to meet these requirements in 2018.
The Epic EHR modules to pass muster are for infection control and reporting, syndromic surveillance reporting and labs reporting.
Providers shouldn't expect a deluge of products fully certified to the new standards any time soon, according to Kyle Meadors, president of the Drummond Group, Austin, Texas, one of a handful of firms accepted by the ONC to test and accredit EHRs under the program.
“Dribble is a fair word,” for what's flowing through the EHR testing and certification pipeline right now, Meadors said.
Large vendors of hospital EHR systems, like Epic, are in the lead and are testing some products, he said.
But midsize and smaller developers of products bound for the office-based practices of physicians and other “eligible professionals” are also starting to design items, but their products will more likely be tested and marketed later this year or early next year.
“The crescendo will be in the first quarter or second quarter of 2017,” Meador predicted.
“We do have over a dozen vendors in the process of testing,” said Amit Trivendi, who heads the EHR certification program for ICSA Labs, based in Mechanicsburg, Pa., which certified the Epic system.
But, “this year has had a slower start,” than the two earlier stages in the EHR incentive payment program, in which even larger groups of developers, seeking first-to-market advantage, were eager to have their products tested and certified as soon as possible.
Today, some vendors see wisdom in “doing a wait-and-see approach as to what's happening in the near future,” he said, holding off on testing and certification until all rule-making is complete and, perhaps, even until a new administration is installed in the White House next year.
The shift to the Stage 3 and 2015 Edition requirements has received push-back from providers, especially with the added complexity of the pending shift by physicians to the new requirements of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.
Under MACRA, physicians may choose to either participate in Medicare Alternative Payment Models, for which reporting starts Jan. 1, 2017, or select to participate in a Merit-Based Incentive Payment System beginning in 2019. In the latter case, they'll need to use EHRs certified to the ONC's 2015 Edition criteria.