ONC announces additions to its Health IT Certification Program

ONC announces additions to its Health IT Certification Program

Electronic health records have become increasingly popular for health providers in need of tools that help them streamline workflows and reduce common medical errors that were once a problem when paper-based procedures were frequently used in practices. To ensure that EHR systems are as effective as they can be, the proper testing and certification of health IT is crucial to keeping adoption rates high and enhancing patient care across the health care continuum. 

ONC certification program becomes more flexible
To emphasize how essential it is that EHRs have been sufficiently tested before being certified and put on the market for providers, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the organization with the main responsibility for certifying EHR systems, has announced that it will be actively working to improve these procedures. The ONC published a Federal Register notice in June that permits the National Coordinator to allow more lenient standards when accepting test procedures and capabilities as well as information created by anyone and any entity for approval. 

The ONC published the notice following feedback from many of the health care sector's stakeholders. The feedback consisted of advice for enhancing the efficiency at which health IT is tested, which included allowing testing led by the industry and certification within the ONC Certification Program to be involved in the regular testing procedures. 

Health IT developers, vendors and additional entities are now allowed to send information, test tools and test procedures that they hope to be included in the Health IT Certification Program. 

"We are excited about the potential of leveraging community supplied tools because there is no limit to the number that can be submitted and we believe that having more testing flexibility will help the program maximize the efficiencies already created and operational-proven by health IT developers," ONC officials reported in the notice. 

Essential changes to push industry in the right direction
These additions to the certification program caters to those searching for alternative testing resources when it comes time to certify their health IT systems and tools. Data, procedures or tools can be submitted to ONC representatives through an email at onc.certification@hhs.gov.

"The National Coordinator is open to approving test procedures, test tools, and test data that meet the outlined approval requirements above for an applicable adopted certification criterion or criteria," the Department of Health and Human Services stated in a document. "By way of this document, we strongly encourage persons or entities to submit such test procedures, test tools, and test data to ONC if they believe such procedures, tools, and data could be used to meet ONC's certification criteria and testing approval requirements. We also note that there is no programmatic prohibition on the approval of multiple test procedures, test tools, and test data for a certification criterion or criteria."

The federal agencies have also included alterations to the stage 2 meaningful use requirements, which will impact providers who adopt health IT tools between the years 2015 and 2017. The modifications were proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and change standards like the reporting period, which was realigned so that practices and facilities will participate during the calendar year instead of the fiscal year. 

Providers must take note of these changes to the meaningful use standards and certification of health IT tools before they can receive financial incentives from the CMS while partaking in the EHR Incentive Programs. Health professionals should prepare for further alterations to policies and procedures as a part of the industry's efforts to improve population health outcomes and the overall quality of health care services. The purpose of these alterations and modifications is to help the health care industry progress and evolve in the right direction.