The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology voted to approve the meaningful use recommendations from the Health IT Policy Committee last week. The HITECH Act requires physicians to use a “certified” EMR system in a “meaningful way” to qualify for reimbursement payments. The recommendations contain specific functionality that EMR systems must provide. Furthermore, physicians must actually implement and use these features in their practice on a daily basis to show meaningful use of their EMR system.

E-prescribing, checking for drug-to-drug interactions, and maintaining an updated problem list are among the approved meaningful use criteria. David Blumenthal, the National Coordinator for Health IT, must approve the recommendations before submitting them to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS will use these recommendations to make the meaningful use rules, due in December.

In addition to meaningful use, physicians must purchase and implement a “certified” EMR system. Previously, many thought the committee would choose the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology, otherwise known as CCHIT, as the sole certifying body. The Health IT Policy Committee, however, advocated that multiple organizations perform “HHS Certification.”

The committee recognized CCHIT certification as “excessively detailed.” The committee criticized CCHIT as giving “too much attention to specific features and functionality.” Instead, the committee wants to limit certification to the minimum set of criteria to fulfill the meaningful use requirements in addition to security and privacy concerns.

The committee proposed that “HHS certification means that a system is able to achieve government requirements for security, privacy, and interoperability, and that the system would enable the Meaningful Use results that the government expects. HHS Certification is not intended to be viewed as a ‘seal of approval’ or an indication of the benefits of one system over another.” However, the committee thinks more comprehensive certification of EMR, like what CCHIT provides, should continue pending market demand. The committee does not want CCHIT to be a requirement for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments.

The Health IT Policy Committee made the right decision with respect to requirements for certified EMR systems. Selecting criteria that addresses security, privacy, interoperability, and meaningful use requirements makes sense. In addition to being “excessively detailed,” CCHIT has many other drawbacks, such as its hefty application price tag and limited participation by EMR vendors. Choosing CCHIT as the certification criteria would have eliminated many smaller vendors from the market and potentially jeopardized the entire stimulus act.

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Ryan Ricks

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