ONC final rule establishes permanent health IT certification program

With this week's announcement of a final rule establishing a permanent health IT certification program, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT makes clear exactly what is expected of potential electronic medical record testing bodies. According to a press release issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, such organizations will be required to have accreditation prior to certifying health IT for providers looking to meet "meaningful use" standards. 

Testing bodies--also known as ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies, or ONC-ACBs--also will be required to perform follow-up surveillance and "gap certification" whenever criteria are revised, according to Government Health IT. The rule doesn't go into effect until Jan. 1 of next year, at which time, the current temporary certification program--established last June--will cease. 

Under the temporary program, six organizations thus far, including the Certification Commission for Health IT (CCHIT), have been given certifying authority. However, that authority only lasts until the permanent rule takes effect. When that occurs, CCHIT--along with other groups that lobbied unsuccessfully to create a grandfather clause for groups carrying its certification--will have to reapply for such status. CCHIT chair Karen Bell, though, told InformationWeek she isn't worried. 

"The good news is that ONC has given us a year for the transition before the permanent program goes live," she said. 

ONC also will request that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) create a laboratory accreditation program for organizations to be accredited to test health IT for permanent certification through its National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP), the press release says.

"Our goal is to make the transition to the permanent certification program as seamless as possible," Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology, said, according to the release. 

To learn more:
- here's the final rule (.pdf)
- read the HHS press release
- check out this Government Health IT piece
- read this InformationWeek article