March 2, 2010 – Today the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) outlining the proposed approach for establishing a certification program to test and certify electronic health records (EHRs). The HITECH Act mandates the development of a certification program which will give purchasers and users of EHR technology assurances that the technology and products have the necessary functionality and security to help meet meaningful use criteria. While we are making significant strides toward modernizing our health care system, these efforts will only succeed if providers and patients are confident that their health information systems are safe and functional.
The proposed rule incorporates two phases of development for the certification program to ensure that eligible professionals and eligible hospitals are able to adopt and implement Certified EHR Technology in time to qualify for meaningful use incentive payments. The rulemaking process will take time, so this phased approach provides a bridge to detailed guidelines to support an ongoing program of testing and certification of health IT.
The first proposed program creates a temporary certification process under which the National Coordinator would authorize organizations to assume many of the responsibilities that will eventually be fulfilled under the permanent certification program. For the permanent certification program, the rule proposes transitioning much of the responsibility for testing and certification to organizations in the private sector.
Publication of the proposed rule on the Establishment of Certification Programs for Health Information Technology is an important first step in bringing structure and cohesion to the evaluation of EHRs, EHR modules, and potentially other types of health IT. The programs will help support end users of certified products, and ultimately serve the interests of each patient by ensuring that their information is securely managed and available where and when it is needed.
Your input is essential to bringing this important process to fruition. We encourage your participation in the open public comment period.
Additional information on both of these programs and how you can comment can be found through the HHS news release issued today and at the http://HealthIT.HHS.Gov website.
The vision of the HITECH Act is unfolding rapidly, and all of us at ONC look forward to continuing to work with you to achieve the meaningful use of EHRs.
David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P.
National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services