Certified EHR Technology

To be eligible to receive incentive funds under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, health care providers must adopt, implement, or upgrade, and eventually demonstrate meaningful use, of certified EHR technology. Certification ensures that the technology used by individual facilities and practitioners meets a minimum standard of functionality, most importantly the ability to exchange health information electronically with other providers. ONC is responsible for establishing criteria and procedures for certifying EHR technology.

Under the provisions of a final rule published on June 24, 2010, ONC established a temporary program for the certification of EHR technology. Under this program, organizations can become authorized by the National Coordinator to test EHR technology and certify that it is suitable for meeting one or more components of meaningful use. A list of organizations that are currently designated as ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ONC-ATCBs) is maintained on the ONC website.

The temporary certification program will be in effect until December 31, 2011, at which point it will be replaced by a permanent certification program under the terms of a final rule published by ONC on January 7, 2011. Key features of the permanent certification program include:

  • Separation of testing and certification into separate processes.
  • Organizations must first be accredited in order to test and/or certify health information technology.
  • Certification bodies authorized by the National Coordinator (ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies or ONC-ACBs) are required to conduct post-certification surveillance.
  • ONC-ACBs are permitted to perform "gap certification" which allows a streamlined process for products already certified under the current standard to become certified under a future standard by testing only the aspects that are different between the two standards.

ONC maintains a list of certified health IT products which can be used to determine whether the EHR technology you are using meets the minimum standards necessary to qualify for the EHR incentive program. Note that many EHR modules are certified for only some of the meaningful use objectives; in order to qualify for the incentive you must have a system or set of modules whose certification covers all the objectives.

For more information on certification of EHR technology, see the ONC website page "Standards and Certification".