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ONC Announces Final Permanent Certification Rule

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) issued a final rule Jan. 3 establishing a permanent program for certifying electronic health record (EHR) technology. Testing and certification is expected to begin Jan. 1, 2012 under the permanent certification program.

The ONC will use the permanent certification program to authorize organizations to certify EHR technology, such as Complete EHRs and EHR Modules. Currently, the ONC is using the temporary certification program, established through a final rule issued June 24, 2010, to authorize organizations to certify EHRs, but this program is scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 2011.
The final rule includes several revisions to the proposed rule, issued June 24, 2010. In the sections regarding the selection process of an ONC-Approved Accreditor (AA), for example, the final rule leaves the door open to allow the possibility for certification of other types of health information technology (IT). The final rule also eliminates the provision for the ONC to review requests for ONC-AA status in the order they receive them and approve the first qualified accreditation organization. Instead, the ONC will review all timely requests and choose the organization most qualified. As a result, the ONC has given itself more time for the selection process—60 days instead of 30.
At onset, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) through its National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) will be responsible for accrediting organizations to test health IT (particularly EHR technology). A new ONC-AA will then be selected every three years.
Other revisions include one to section 170.501, to state ONC-Accredited Certification Bodies (ACB) requirements that were inadvertently left out of the proposed rule. ONC-ACBs replace ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ATCBs), currently authorized to test and certify Complete EHR and EHR Modules, in compliance with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.
Additional revisions affecting all areas of the permanent certification program can be found throughout the final rule. Provisional highlights and the final rule are available on the ONC website.

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