HHS recently announced a proposed rule that would establish certification programs to test electronic health record, or EHR, systems. The federal proposal(edocket.access.gpo.gov) calls for establishment of a temporary certification program that eventually would be replaced by a permanent program.
HHS unveiled the proposal on March 2, when David Blumenthal, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology, posted an online message(healthit.hhs.gov) saying that EHR users need assurances that the products they purchase will provide the necessary functionality and security.
Blumenthal acknowledged the need for HHS to move quickly to support physicians and other EHR users because the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act mandates the development of a national EHR certification program. "The proposed rule incorporates two phases of development for the certification program to ensure that eligible professionals and eligible hospitals are able to adopt and implement certified EHR technology in time to qualify for meaningful use incentive payments," said Blumenthal.
"The rulemaking process will take time, so this phased approach provides a bridge to detailed guidelines to support an ongoing program of testing and certification of health IT," he added.
According to Blumenthal, the permanent certification program would shift much of the responsibility for testing certification to the private sector.
Steven Waldren, M.D., director of the Academy's Center for Health IT, told AAFP News Now that the proposed rule fills a void. "The certification regulation was the missing piece in existing health IT regulations," said Waldren. "It's important to have all the rules on the table for comment and discussion."
Waldren said the Academy would carefully review the proposal before providing comments to HHS. "There are a lot of options for physicians relative to certified products, and the Academy wants to ensure that the proposed certification process will benefit our small- and medium-sized family medicine practices," said Waldren.