Certification announcement removes last external barrier to meaningful use

I laughed a few weeks ago when I got the news that GE Healthcare had earned 2011 CCHIT certification for its Centricity Practice Solution EMR. What good is certification from CCHIT, or anyone else, when we don't know yet if that test will pass muster with the federal government for the purposes of "meaningful use"?

I can stop laughing now.

On Monday, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology named the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology and new entrant the Drummond Group as the first two authorized testing and certification bodies. CCHIT certification of an EMR will indeed be adequate for hospitals and physicians to qualify for meaningful use--and some of the estimated $27 billion in Medicare and Medicaid bonus payments that entails.

I was thinking that this step pretty much removes the final external barrier to installing an EMR and becoming a meaningful user. Now, it's all up to individual providers to choose a certified EMR and take the appropriate steps to using the system in a meaningful way.

I just happened to speak by phone this morning with Dr. David Blumenthal, who had just finished making an announcement at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit of federal grant funding for two new "beacon communities." The national HIT coordinator was noncommittal on whether other organizations would earn ONC approval to become authorized certification bodies--and there are additional applications pending--but he pretty much agreed with my assessment.

"We've put the infrastructure in place," Blumenthal said. "The machine has been created and it's been gassed."

And now, to continue the metaphor, the light has turned green. Calling all safe drivers: Who's going to take this machine for a spin? - Neil