American Society of Hematology

Update on Health Information Technology and Hematology: Electronic Health Record Certification

Lawrence A. Solberg Jr, MD, PhD

Published on: July 01, 2010

Professor of Medicine, Department of Hematology/Oncology, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL
Chair, ASH Committee on Practice

ASH continues to monitor the status of electronic health record (EHR) development and implementation, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Electronic Health Record Incentive Program. ASH is encouraging CMS to assure widespread adoption of health information technology (HIT) by providing flexibility in the definition of meaningful use and in the timeframe for practices to adopt HIT, by limiting burdensome reporting requirements, and by harmonizing the incentive programs between Medicare and Medicaid. In this regard, recent developments regarding "certification" of EHRs are of significant interest. Hematologists engaged in purchasing decisions for EHRs should be aware of the importance of a certified product and changes that are underway in how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) certifies organizations such as Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT).

On March 1, 2010, the CCHIT announced plans to extend comprehensive certification to hematology/oncology applications. This is a positive development because certification of EHR assures patients and physicians that the product meets basic functionalities including interoperability and security features. Certification programs approved by HHS will also be required for applications to be used in evolving federal programs to incentivize physicians in the meaningful use of EHRs.

On March 10, 2010, HHS issued a notice of proposed rulemaking requesting comments regarding the establishment of certification programs for purposes of testing and certifying health information technology. Details may be found on an HHS website.

Based on comments received, two types of certification programs are now available from CCHIT: a temporary program to assure the availability of certified EHR technology prior to the date on which health-care providers seeking the incentive payments would begin to report demonstrable, meaningful use of certified EHR technology and a permanent program to replace the temporary certification program. According to the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology website:

  • "The CCHIT Certified® 2011 program includes a rigorous inspection of integrated EHR functionality, interoperability, and security according to criteria independently developed by CCHIT’s broadly representative, expert work groups using CCHIT’s published testing methods."
  • "The Preliminary ARRA IFR Stage 1 program is simpler and more flexible, although it does not provide as much buyer assurance as the CCHIT Certified 2011 program. In this program, technology is only inspected to meet the certification criteria and standards in the HHS, Office of the National Coordinator Interim Final Rule of January 2010."
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