At MGMA I had the opportunity to attend a great session on EHR certification presented by Robert Tennant, Senior Policy Advisor for MGMA and Alisa Ray, Executive Director of CCHIT.

Starting with the basics, Robert Tennant explained what it means for an EHR to be certified. To qualify for the incentives program established by CMS/ONC a clinician must be using an EHR program that is certified by one of the 6 certifying bodies named by ONC. ONC has set the minimum capabilities for EHRs. These minimums are directly related to the clinicians’ requirements for Meaningful Use attestation.

The 6 certifying bodies are Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT), Drummond Group, InfoGard, Surescripts, ICSA labs, and SCI Global Solutions. Currently over 800 ambulatory EHRs and modules are certified by one of these bodies. However, these certifications are based on Meaningful Use Stage 1 criteria.

Like everything else in this industry the ONC minimums will soon change based on Meaningful Use Stage 2 Rules. Robert Tennant made a point to stress how important it is for clinicians to ensure that the EHRs they are contracting with have a distinct plan for upgrading to be in accordance with Meaningful Use Stage 2 minimums.

Alisa Ray, from CCHIT joined Mr. Tennant to explain what sets CCHIT apart from the other certifying bodies. She explained that the mission of CCHIT is to “Accelerate the adoption of robust, interoperable health IT by creating an efficient, credible certification process.” The CCHIT certification is not required to attest for Meaningful Use, the ONC-ATCB certification determines that. However, CCHIT certification is another level of assurance for physicians looking for a system that has been thoroughly tested.

CCHIT certification programs focus on the clinical functionalities of EHR systems, how providers and patients interact with the systems, and the security of the program. This extra certification gives physicians the ability to learn more about the system functioning in an environment similar to theirs.

ONC-ATCB certification is a MUST when selecting an EHR, and CCHIT certification is an extra insight into the functionalities of the software.