As it works to broaden health information exchange capabilities across the care continuum, the Office of the National Coordinator has drawn up a certification guidance aimed at technology developers serving specialized providers who are ineligible for Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive payments.
ONC officials say the guidance is meant to "serve as a building block for federal agencies and stakeholders" as they work with different communities to achieve interoperable electronic health information exchange.
It identifies the 2014 Edition EHR certification criteria that specifically focus on interoperability, seeking to "open critical communication lines between eligible and ineligible healthcare providers in order to support broad healthcare goals, such as care coordination and reduced hospital readmissions."
While the meaningful use program has driven significant EHR adoption by healthcare providers eligible to receive incentive payments, many other types of care providers, "equally important to the care continuum," are not eligible to receive incentive payments under the HITECH Act.
These include certain mental and behavioral health professionals, for example, and other professionals who practice in longterm and post-acute care settings.
Nonetheless, these "ineligible" providers routinely interact with hospitals and physician practices are eligible for EHR incentive payments, and face policy and technology challenges unique to their settings.
While EHR certification criteria were originally and specifically adopted to support those providers seeking to achieve meaningful use, ONC believes "that they are generally applicable to many healthcare settings."
Moreover, officials say, the capabilities expressed by some of these certification criteria could, "if implemented by both eligible and ineligible types of providers," help make for a critical path for data exchange between both types.
In spotlighting the 2014 Edition EHR certification criteria that directly impact interoperability, ONC is seeking to improve health information exchange among not just more traditional care settings but also clinical laboratories, public health agencies and more.
"Healthcare providers eligible to receive incentive payments under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs will, depending on the stage of meaningful use they seek to achieve, need to have EHR technology certified to these criteria," write ONC officials. "We encourage EHR technology developers serving ineligible health care providers to also seek certification to these criteria."
Read ONC's "Certification Guidance for EHR Technology Developers Serving Health Care Providers Ineligible for Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Payments" here (PDF).
[See also: Interoperability vs. HIE: Words matter]