Government on track for timely certification process

Authorized Temporary Certification Bodies – or ATCBs – will be ready soon, stakeholders confirm.

Though many fear the timetable is cutting things too close, federal officials and other stakeholders paint a picture of things coming together in time for providers to have their electronic health record products certified to meet the meaningful use requirements by Oct. 1, when data collection is first allowed.

Since 2004, the non-profit Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) has been the only federally recognized certification body for electronic health records. By mid-2009, CCHIT had certified some 200 electronic health record products, representing 75 percent of the marketplace.

Things changed with the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009. Congress mandated that there be more certification bodies, with ATCBs set up to take care of the job until a final rule is published and permanent certification bodies come into play.

On June 23, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) issued the final rule on the ATCB program, and according to ONC officials, 30 organizations have requested applications.

David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology said at a HIT Policy Committee meeting on Wednesday that 6 organizations have sent in applications so far.

Last week, the Austin, Texas-based Drummond Group, an interoperability testing company, affirmed they were in the process of applying, as was CCHIT, which planned to have its 500-600-page application in “very soon.”

ONC has 30 days according to the rule to approve an ATCB application once it is turned in.

According to Alisa Ray, executive director of CCHIT, despite its experience, the commission must apply as any other organization. “It's a lot of work," she said. “It's a barrier to anyone who's not serious about doing this.”

Ray pointed out that CCHIT is not having to change what it has been doing. "The application just requires that we change how we talk about it," she said.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has been charged by Congress to set up the testing procedures that approved ATCBs must use to certify electronic health records for meaningful use.

According to NIST's Lisa Carnahan, who's responsible for the project, NIST will have the testing objectives ready and available online by this week. Draft measures have been available on the NIST website since April, Carnahan said.

NIST worked with ONC to be prepared in advance to have the testing objectives ready as soon as possible following the release of the meaningful use final rule, she said.

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