Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

ONC opts against proposed voluntary 2015 EHR certification

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

In light of public comments, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has given up on its proposal for “Voluntary 2015 Edition” EHR certification criteria.

Instead, the federal agency revealed plans incorporate components of a revised 2014 Edition EHR certification criteria to be known as either “2014 Edition Release 2″ or “2014 Edition Release 2 EHR certification criteria” as part of a recent final rule published in the Federal Register.

“This final rule reflects ONC’s commitment to continually improve the certification program and respond to stakeholder feedback. It provides more choices for health IT developers and their customers, including new interoperable ways to securely exchange health information,” National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, said yesterday. “It also serves as a model for ONC to update its rules as technology and standards evolve to support innovation.”

The decision is motivated by the belief that a more direct naming convention will provide greater consistency and predictability across governmental programs. “Stakeholders that seek to leverage the ONC HIT Certification Program would then be able to choose which edition of certification criteria (or subset of criteria within an edition) is most relevant and appropriate for their program needs,” states the final rule.

Along with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), ONC will be hosting a webinar to discuss recent changes to meaningful use in 2014 — one for reporting flexibility for eligible providers depending on their version of certified EHR technology (CEHRT) and this most recent one changing voluntary EHR certification criteria.

The final rule for 2014 Edition Release 2 certification criteria comprises ten optional and two revised certification criteria which are included with the 2014 Edition. Additionally, the rule brings an end to one major concept — the Complete EHR.

“We have finalized our proposal to discontinue the Complete EHR definition and Complete EHR certification,” the authors of the final rule write. “To be clear, the discontinuation of the Complete EHR definition and Complete EHR certification will have no impact on current 2014 Edition Complete EHR certifications or in using a 2014 Edition Complete EHR to meet the current CEHRT definition.”

The elimination of the Complete EHR definition addresses concerns from commenters about being able to verify to which certification criteria an EHR technology was certified and avoid ambiguity that does not occur for EHR modules that must specify such details.

“Last, while we do not believe the use of the terms ‘Complete’ or ‘Comprehensive’ are appropriate for ‘labeling’ EHR technology going forward, we will consider for our next rulemaking whether any other ‘labeling’ for certified technologies could continue to make the scope of certification clearer,” the ONC concludes.

Based on the decisions of the ONC and CMS, the two agencies are listening to stakeholders. But the question remains: Are their decisions only adding to the confusion?

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