EHR Certification: Your Top 5 Questions Answered

May 5, 2011

With registration for Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs officially underway, there may still be some questions about which systems will qualify practices and hospitals for federal dollars. CMS offers some answers here.

With registration for Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs officially underway, there may still be some questions about which systems will qualify practices and hospitals for federal dollars.

We recently asked CMS, the Federal agency responsible for the incentive program, to clear up some questions and misconceptions from you, our readers, culled over the last few months.
We hope these help you, but if you still have an inquiry, let us know and we'll get the answers directly from CMS.

Q. To qualify, systems must be certified - what does that mean?
A.
The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs require the use of certified EHR technology. A certified system meets the DHHS standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria for EHR technology. The EHR systems that meet the certification requirements for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs are listed on The Certified HIT Product List.

Hint: This list is continually updated so check the website regularly. If your product isn’t listed it may simply be in the process of becoming certified. For additional questions and comments you may contact: ONC.certification@hhs.gov

Q. Who certifies the systems?
A.
A short answer is tech savvy businesses and organizations authorized by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Vendors and even healthcare providers can submit EHR systems for certification by what is called an “Authorized Testing and Certification Body.” These “bodies” test systems against the standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria for EHR technology that have been set by the Secretary of DHHS after extended periods of public and expert review, comment, and contribution.

Ask your vendor whether an EHR system(s) has been tested and certified to meet these standards, specifications and criteria by a DHHS "Authorized Testing and Certification Body."

Q. How and when does a practice know if an EHR is certified?
A.
All EHR systems and technology must be certified specifically for this program. A certified system will have a 13-character “ONC Certification #” that looks like this: CC-9999-999999-9.

You can check for yourself by searching the Certified Health IT Product List. This is a constantly updated list of all complete EHRs and EHR modules that have been certified by a DHHS Authorized Testing and Certification Body.

Q. Can practices use more than one system to qualify for meaningful use or must we use a single certified system?
A.
Yes. As long as you use certified systems or components, you successfully register, and you meet the meaningful use criteria, you should be OK. This is because certified systems are “interoperable.” This means that key information in one certified system can be used by another certified system.

An example would be a practice that meets its meaningful use objectives and measures using separately purchased “interoperable” e-prescribing, electronic medical records, or other administrative systems to meet the e-prescribing objective.

You should contact your vendors to make sure that the systems you are using will work together to meet the EHR objectives and measures.

Q. I've had an EHR for years. Will it be certified or do I need to buy a new EHR?
A.
To get EHR incentives under Medicare or Medicaid your EHR must be a certified EHR. You may not need to buy a new EHR if your existing system or part(s) of your existing system are certified. A certified system will have the 13-character "ONC Certification #."

Vendors constantly submit their EHR products to certifying bodies to be tested and certified. Complete EHRs may be certified as well as EHR modules that meet at least one of the certification criteria. Once a product is certified, the name of the product will be published on http://www.healthit.gov/CHPL. Component upgrades to existing systems may be possible and may be cheaper than purchasing entirely new EHR systems. Contact your vendor for more information.

Do you have a question regarding EHR certification? Let us know your issues and questions and we'll ask CMS for the answers. Post your questions below or e-mail your inquiries to keith.martin@ubm.com.