HHS Says Certified EHR Available in Fall 2010

Well, it always seems to happen when I go out of town on vacation that HHS finally decides to go to work and make some announcements. The final rule for the Temporary EHR certification rule is out and will be published to the Federal Register on June 24th. It’s non-final format is available at the Federal Register’s Public Inspection Desk. Does anyone else kind of squirm when they read about this final rule for a temporary EHR certification. Final and temporary just don’t sound right together, but that’s what we have.

The Healthcare IT Guy attended an HHS ONC press conference and added a nice little summary of what was said:

*As of today if you’re interested in being a certification body you must request the HHS Certifying Body application in writing
*On July 1 ONC will start accepting applications
*By the “end of the summer” (HHS’s words) there will be one or more certifying bodies open for business (accepting products)
*By “this fall” (again, their words) there will be fully HHS certified products available

One important clarification was made by ONC — there is no grandfathering in CCHIT or previously certified products. Everybody is going to be re certified using the new NIST rules. This means that if you have even 2011 CCHIT certification now it won’t mean anything, you have to go through the process again. CCHIT is offering their “ARRA Interim Certification” but beware — the rules say that you have to follow the NIST plans, not what CCHIT developed. So, if you have the ARRA Interim Certification you may not have pay again but you still will be required to change your software to meet the HHS/NIST test plans and requirements.

Nothing that’s all that newsworthy, except it’s nice to finally have a little bit more solid timeline for when there will be some ARRA EHR certification bodies.

I think that Shahid’s analysis of the now meaningless 2011 CCHIT certification is spot on as well. Although, I’m sure we’ll still see quite a few EMR vendors using the marketing power of the CCHIT certification on unsuspecting clinics who don’t know the difference.

Yes, it does also mean that clinics will have to wait until Fall of 2010 (or later) before they’ll really know if an EHR will be a certified EHR or not. Of course, I’ll be very surprised if less than 98% of EMR vendors don’t become ARRA certified.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Of course they will all have to pay for the new certification and it will be expensive.

  • That’s true Jack. Unless CCHIT does what they committed to do before and create some sort of bridge from previous certification to the ARRA certification. However, I think it will be difficult for them to offer this for free. We’ll see. They’ve gone quiet so far.

  • @Jack F –

    It’ll be on the order of $35,000 to get certified, based on my reading of the federal costs tabulated in the final rule. Which, of course, will then get passed on, plus a profit margin, to the EHR vendor applicants.

  • CCHIT’s response is now up over at their blog. It’s to the point: CCHIT plans to certify EHRs. I’ve created two word clouds of both CCHIT’s and Drummond Group’s blog responses to this rule, and the differences are interesting (to say the least).

    And thanks for the heads up Emily: it’s looking like things are finally starting to pick up in the HITECH area.

  • Bobby,
    I’m not sure that CCHIT will charge the full $35k if you’ve done their preliminary ARRA certification or their full 2011 EHR certification. It might be less if you’ve done that already. We’ll see.

    Could CCHIT say less in their blog post? Basically, they’re going forward (that’s news). I also still hate that they use the word assurance in regards to their certification. Ugh!

  • John, I just meant “to get certified” as a Registrar. My Bad. But, still, from page 171 of the Final Rule on Interim Certification, you can see in table 3 the estimated likely cost for getting an EHR system itself certified. The mid-range for a complete EHR is $40k. The narrative on page 170 addressed it also, and expresses their hope that competition will drive cert costs down.

  • Bobby,
    Yep. Those numbers were used by CCHIT. The question is will some competition join that will lower the price. Sadly, I don’t see them getting into a major price war. There’s only a 300+ EMR vendor market. It will be fun to watch.

  • Man this Stimulus Bill thing is working out great!

    As Bobby pointed out … the cost of certification whether the original CCHIT cert … or a new ARRA cert is going to get passed on to the vendors. And of course the vendors are going to pass it on to their customers … the practices.

    Not to worry … most practices aren’t paying too much attention at this point to the Temporary EHR Cert Rule language or the pending Final MU Rule language. Focus by practices is on the 21% MEDICARE cut and payment delay. Now Pelosi says she will not have the House take up the Senate bill unless the Dems jobs bill gets added back in.

    No rush getting those EHR’s ARRA certified and MU final rule defined. The docs’ margins and cash flows are now so crippled its going to be tough in the near term to find the capital or budget room to buy an EHR anyhow. Some are finding it far simpler and cost effective to just not take on future MEDICARE patients … or just drop MEDICARE patients from their panels.

    So when are things supposed to get better?

  • Don’t worry…Pelosi’s maneuver will only cost $15 – 30 million for CMS to reprocess the claims when they finally approve the “doc-fix”. I guess CMS will just pass that cost on to the evil Doctors that unneccesarily remove children’s tonsils to make a profit.

  • @Jack F. Recognizing we are off topic in John’s EMR/EHR blog … but the financial condition and position of PCPs correlates directly to the ability of practices to afford the right EHR.

    CMS was stuck by the Legislators … resulting in late and short pay to practices creating big cash flow problems for small to medium size practices. I don’t expect this to be “fixed” even temporarily any time soon given Ms. Pelosi wanting to play politics and not caring about the practices. They aren’t her constituency.

    And the “unnecessary tonsil removal by evil primary care docs” issue … you and I are of the same viewpoint on Dems tactic to villify anyone they want to leverage. In this case the Head Dem exposed his ignorance by failing to realize that family practice docs don’t do tonsilectomies … otolaryngologists do them on consult from the PCP.

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