ONC releases new final rule for 2014 Edition of EHR certification

After a study, published by Health Affairs and conducted by the People-to-People Health Foundation, showed that only 5.8 percent of hospitals attested to stage 2 of meaningful use, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology released a new final rule for the 2014 Edition electronic health record certification criteria. It introduced regulatory flexibilities and general improvements to the ONC HIT Certification Program for the 2014 Edition and future editions of criteria, as well as codified revisions and updates to the Code of Federal Regulations. The new certification criteria will go into effect 30 days from publication in the Federal Register, which will take place on Sept. 11, 2014.

The ONC revised two mandatory criteria to give hospitals and physicians more flexibility and clarity in regard to health information exchanges and added 10 optional criteria, which were not available before. The Federal Register noted that the four voluntary certification standards for 2015 will be omitted from the new list of certification criteria.

After eligible providers were unable to meet all criteria in stage 2 of meaningful use, many of them blamed their EHR vendors. To mitigate those problems, the ONC announced that all providers must use certified EHR systems in order to attest for meaningful use. This means that EHR vendors must put their software through an approval process. The final rule stated that this may result in new security standards and interoperability benchmarks.

New categories ease worries of providers
The 2014 Edition Release 2 separates certification criteria into three categories: laboratory, medications and diagnostic imaging orders. The ONC reasoned that this will give eligible providers more flexibility when implementing EHR systems, as hospitals and physicians that meet more criteria in one category than another will still be able to receive payments from Medicare and Medicaid.

"This final rule reflects ONC's commitment to continually improve the certification program and respond to stakeholder feedback," said Karen DeSalvo, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc., national coordinator for health IT. "It provides more choices for health IT developers and their customers, including new interoperable ways to securely exchange health information. It also serves as a model for ONC to update its rules as technology and standards evolve to support innovation."

Many are pleased with the adjustments made to the meaningful use certification criteria. John Travis, vice president of regulatory and compliance strategy at Cerner, told InformationWeek that the company is happy with the ONC's decision to consider public comments from vendors and providers when creating more options.