Understanding EHR certification

ONC-ATCB Certified Complete EHRThere are a variety of EHR certification programs, so it’s easy to get confused about which program applies to you.  If you are looking for an electronic health record (EHR) solution that will enable you to receive Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Incentives for Meaningful Use, only one certification matters.  Look for an EHR certified by an ONC-ATCB, or The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) authorized testing and certification bodies (ATCB).

The certification requirement is laid out in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), which Congress enacted as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The first phase of HITECH requires physicians and hospitals to use certified EHR technology in a meaningful way by the year 2015. Proving meaningful use means they must use EHR technology to track patient data such as diagnoses, prescriptions, allergies and clinical quality measures specific to a medical treatment facility.

In order to be EHR certified, software has to meet precise requirements that ensure it will allow healthcare providers to achieve the goals of meaningful use, as outlined in HITECH. EHR certificated software is also guaranteed to protect the security and confidentiality of patient data while allowing that data to be shared with other certified systems.

Software can be certified as a complete EHR or as an EHR module. A complete EHR meets all criteria for fulfilling all HITECH objectives, while a module meets only one certification requirement. Quanum EHR from Quest Diagnostics is an example of a complete certified EHR, designed for outpatient facilities.

The EHR certification process is rigorous. The ONC administers the certification program and has selected six authorized testing and certification bodies (ATCB) to evaluate the software.

Prior to being inspected by an ATCB, software providers like Quest Diagnostics conduct numerous self-tests in which medical information is entered on hypothetical patients, simulating real-life medical scenarios. Then, the ATCB evaluates the software to make sure it collects all the required data and uses that data in a meaningful way by performing specific electronic calculations.

For example, the ATCB verifies that the software is not only able to track a patient’s medication list, but that it can also electronically compare and combine two separate lists.

Here is a complete list of ONC-certified healthcare IT products.

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