ONC publishes certification test procedures, companion guides

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has started to publish 2015 education test procedures that apply to the 2015 edition of certification criteria, formally issued Oct. 16.

ONC develops the functional and conformance testing requirements for the testing and certification of health IT modules to the certification criteria adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services. Only ONC-approved test methods can be used to test products intended for certification in the ONC Health IT Certification Program, according to the agency's website. ONC will post the test procedures on a rolling basis and the public will then have 30 days to comment. ONC expects the 2015 edition final test procedures to be approved and posted in mid-December.

For the first time, ONC also has released certification companion guides (CCGs) to help electronic health record developers understand and interpret the regulations. The guides "provide development guidance and technical clarifications to complement the 2015 edition test procedures in a single, consolidated source for certification criteria clarifications. The CCGs are intended assist with product development in preparation for ONC Health IT Certification Program requirements for testing and certification." The guides will not undergo a formal public comment period, but people still can provide feedback; the guides will be updated, as necessary

In a related blog post announcing the test procedures and guides, Steven Posnack, director of ONC's Office of Standards and Technology, noted that the final 2015 edition certification criteria rule created a "burst of activity" regarding the certification criteria.

"Throughout the year we have worked with stakeholders to make changes to the Health IT Certification Program's operations," he said. "These changes have focused on increasing consistent communication and reducing confusion and complexity."

The final rule detailing the 2015 edition certification criteria is structured differently from prior editions and focuses more on interoperability through the care continuum, not just on the Meaningful Use program. There are 60 criteria, of which 19 are new. Certification now is "module based" and requires health IT modules, not just EHR modules.

Certification is receiving heightened scrutiny as more people question whether some vendors have failed to comply with the certification requirements and should have their products' certification revoked.

The American Medical Association and MedStar Health's National Center for Human Factors, this week, rolled out a new framework that examines certification requirements met by EHR vendors with a goal of improving usability.  

To learn more:
- here's the blog post
- access the test methods website
- check out the guides