Certified EMR Software - 2011/2012 Final Rule for Stimulus Money Eligibility

It was in January 2011 that the ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology) issued the latest version of the Final Rule for establishing benchmarks that will be used for judging status of healthcare entities, i.e. both physicians and clinics, for receiving the EMR Stimulus Money for the purchase and meaningful use of electronic medical records software. The Final Rule plays an integral rule in defining what kind of healthcare facilities and professionals would be eligible for receiving the stimulus money slated to be distributed in 2011.

Background of Final Rule

The Final Rule helps to gain a clearer perspective on Health Information Technology certification standards. In fact, this has been how the model of Final Rule was created. Previous versions of the Final Rule have been altered or upgraded repeatedly after seeking public opinion regarding the practicality and affordability of adhering to the benchmarks set forth for adopting EMR technologies. This is why many versions of the Final Rule have existed before this, including the Interim Final Rule.

Why is the latest Final Rule so critical?

For starters, eligible healthcare professionals and clinics seeking eligibility for the incentive payments under Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs or Medicare are now required to use EHR Technology from a certified vendor. Upon certification, the EHR Modules can be used by eligible professionals and hospitals without any fear of facing compliance issues. Please note that the usage of a Certified EHR Technology is now a statutory requirement.

Most significantly, the Final Rule has established the Permanent Certification Program. The latest Final Rule aims to establish the Permanent Certification Program as the basis of streamlining the kind of EMR technologies adopted, as proposed under Health Information Technology (HIT). This Final Rule has been issued under the authority granted to the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Section 3001(c)(5), as a part of the PHSA (Public Health Service Act). The Permanent Certification Program will replace the temporary certification program that can be understood as the ‘earlier form of Final Rule’.

The National Coordinator seeks to use the Permanent Certification Program for authorizing organizations for certifying Electronic Health Record technologies. This will include defining benchmarks set for Complete EHR and EHR Modules. Permanent Certification Program might be further expanded and include other certifications that form a part of HIT (Health Information Technology) requirements.

It should be noted that the Final Rule is very comprehensive and it has been extended for defining other aspects that can seriously impact judging eligibility for receiving EMR stimulus funds. For instance, the Final Rule also defines the concept of ‘meaningful use’ since it is vital to understand whether Electronic Health Records are required in a healthcare setting or its related businesses.

For the moment, the Temporary Certification Program is bound to continue until this Final Rule takes effect, i.e. December 31, 2011 onwards. Though some people opine that the date might get further delayed, there are no strong indicators to suggest this. This can be impacted by the activities carried out by the ONC for ensuring that requirements set forth by the Permanent Certification Program are properly understood within 2011.