Monday, February 7, 2011

What is a Certified EHR?

In order to receive the Medicare or Medicaid stimulus monies, you have to attain Meaningful Use using a Certified EHR.  One would think that all Certified EHRs offer a high level of capability and functionality.  Unfortunately, you would be wrong.

The Certification Commission on Health Information Technology (CCHIT, ) started a certification process over 5 years ago for Electronic Medical Records (EMR.)  CCHIT came up with an evaluation list that covered a wide range of EMR issues and functionality.  CCHIT evaluation lists included refinements and additional requirements every year.  CCHIT Certification was based on these comprehensive evaluation lists.

In early 2009, ARRA established the Stimulus Plan based on the use of a Certified Electronic Health Record (EHR.)  At that time, the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) suggested that CCHIT would certify EHRs.  CCHIT proceeded to create a 2011 requirements list with Stimulus Plan features, but a variety of issues come up about Certified EHRs and CCHIT including concerns about an EHR certification monopoly.

ONCHIT regrouped and decided that Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (creatively called ATCBs) would certify EHRs and that other organizations could apply to become an ATCB.  On August 30, 2010, ONCHIT started announcing ATCBs (See  )

However, the ONCHIT-ATCB Certified EHRs program is not based on an "ideal" EMR requirements list, but is limited to Stage 1 Meaningful Use Requirements (released July 28, 2010).  In other words, ONCHIT-ATCB Certified EHRs provide the minimum functionality needed to address Meaningful Use but not other requirements that a practice may need for their patient service and operational needs.  For example, practice requirements not included in the Certified EHR requirements include:

Workflow management tools for multi-office practices,

Message management and tracking features,

Surgical procedure management,

Images Annotation and Tracking Tools, and

Clinical content needed by an area of medicine to effectively document patient services.   

To add to the confusion, ONCHIT-ATCB also allowed for Modular EHR Certification that met specific Meaningful Use functionality (ex. Electronic Prescriptions), but not all Meaningful Use requirements.

Limiting your EHR selection process to features needed to meet Meaningful Use could stymie your clinical and patient service goals.  Although the list of ONCHIT-ATCB Certified EHRs is a helpful starting place (  ), you need to be careful about what it takes to get on the list and what it means to your practice or healthcare organization.  With the best of intentions, too many organizations are assuming that ONCHIT-ATCB Certified EHRs are equally capable or represent viable EHR products for a healthcare organization.

Due to a wide range of market and industry issues, you should not buy an EHR that is not ONCHIT-ATCB Certified.  However, a decision based on Certified EHR alone is not a good strategy for any practice, when the ONCHIT-ATCB Certification is based on a basic set of capabilities that would not meet the document management, workflow, patient service and clinical charting needs of your healthcare organization.

© Sterling Solutions, Ltd., 2011

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the FANTASTIC post! This information is really good and thanks a ton for sharing it :-)
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