Blumenthal unveils proposed certification rule at HIMSS10

David Blumenthal, MD

David Blumenthal, MD, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, surprised a packed hall of attendees Tuesday afternoon at HIMSS10 with the release of the notice of proposed rulemaking on certification.

Blumenthal said he wasn't aware that the rule would be unveiled that day, but as hundreds gathered to hear the latest news from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, he agreed the timing was right.

The certification proposal is the last in a series of three rules mandated under the HITECH Act, part of last February's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that explain how providers and hospitals can qualify for bonuses for the use of certified healthcare IT.

The ONC unveiled the rules on standards and meaningful use last December. Since then, providers, vendors and other stakeholders have been waiting for the release of the certification rule so they can prepare to qualify for bonuses by Jan. 1.

ONC policy analyst Steven Posnack told attendees that the 184-page certification proposal "has a lot of the information that will answer the questions you all have."

According to Posnack, the rule will allow organizations to apply for temporary or permanent authorization to become certification bodies. The ONC is proposing the temporary certification to speed things up because of the looming deadline, he said.

Organizations wishing to apply for a temporary certification will be required "to demonstrate through documentation" that they are qualified to test and certify EHRs for part or all of the meaningful use requirements, Posnack said.

Permanent certification will take longer and require more rigorous qualifications for both testing and certification of EHRs, he said.

Since 2006, the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology has been the only certifying body for EHRs. The HITECH Act has mandated that the federal government establish more certification bodies for the meaningful use proposal.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology will authorize meaningful use certifiers of laboratory products, while the ONC will authorize for meaningful use EHRs for providers and hospitals.

The ONC will accept comments for 30 days on the proposed rule for temporary certification and 60 days for the permanent certification, Posnack said.

The proposed rule (PDF) can be found online at http://healthit.hhs.gov/portal/server.pt?open=18&objID=910789&parentname=CommunityPage&parentid=3&mode=2&in_hi_userid=10741&cached=true

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