SureScripts Becomes ONC-ATCB EHR Certification Body

In the weirdest news I’ve seen in a while, SureScripts has become an ONC-ATCB. Here’s the details from Health Data Management:

In a Dec. 23 announcement, the Office for the National Coordinator for Health IT said that Arlington, Va.-based Surescripts can verify that e-prescribing, privacy and security modules meet the standards laid out in the meaningful use requirements. Surescripts is the sixth authorizer to be approved by ONCHIT, but it’s the only one with limited certification abilities—the five others have ONCHIT’s blessing to certify Complete EHRs and EHR modules.

Doesn’t this scream conflict of interest? They run a nationwide e-Prescribing network, and yet they can certify ePrescribing for ONC. I guess you could make the argument that they know ePrescribing well and so they are qualified to do it. Although, it is just weird and awkward to consider them as an ATCB. I wonder which ePrescribing companies will actually use them. Why did SureScripts even go to the effort to become an ATCB?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, 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,, 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.


  • All one has to do is to look at the abysmal level of interoperability of digital patient records between providers to recognize that the largest eHR producers have slumbered in cozy relationships with industry regulators from the time of their first political contributions. The marriage was bound to produce an ugly offspring sooner or later. That would be SureScripts.

    Authorizing eHR producer SureScripts to be an eHR regulator appears to me to be more expedient than packing the CCHIT Boards with HIT stakeholders the old school way. If you recall, President Obama’s devoted supporter from Chicago, Glen Tullman, was selected as one of the first CCHIT Trustees, and for the first year or so of the eHR certifying organization, the CEO of Allscripts (MDRX) offered his recommendations for the regulation of his product. Tullman is loved and respected by Wall Street, but not providers (read “patients”) who must purchase his product.

    It is clear to me that proprietary monsters like SureScripts and Allscripts are precisely why this hugely expensive eHR mandate will not end well for Americans – for generations. Starting with the first drafts of the HIPAA Rule almost 2 decades ago, providers’ needs (read “patients’ needs”) have always been secondary to stakeholders’ profits, political promises and the needs of Wall Street. Unlike the consumer-based dot-com bubble of a decade ago, the speculation in the eHR industry is inflated through bipartisan mandates and funded with our grandchildren’s Stimulus money. One look at the governing boards of any of the public-private HIT organizations that have been born from HIT reveals that stakeholders are crapping in the feed trough.

    Two years ago, Tullman told Alex Nussbaum of that providers need to take out loans to invest in his product “to ensure that doctors [read “patients”] have some skin in the game.”

    That’s the stuff Wall Street and Obama like to hear.

    D. Kellus Pruitt

  • As you know, SureScripts currently has a program to ‘ceritfy’ ePrescribing software applications at various levels (Gold, Platinum, etc.) and the vendors use this certification in their marketing materials. Now SureScripts can also put the ONC-ATCB imprimatur on the same products further enhancing their ‘advanced certification’ status and using this as a differentiator in the market place.

    As to the conflict of interest, I agree. It’s a bit awkward. Doesn’t SureScripts have a vested interest in these certified (gold, platinum) vendors?

  • ONC’s announcement of SureScripts as an albeit limited ONC-ATCB certifier throws in question the credentials of the previously named certifiers.

    With SureScripts enjoying strong policital ties … perhaps there were political ties, favors, and contributions that earned the previous ATCB’s their status?

    This is an ugly middle man process with not much true value to the eHR market.

  • D. Kellus Pruitt,
    You obviously missed all my fun CCHIT posts. Yes, CCHIT was so wrought with conflict and issues. At least they’ve been marginalized to some extent now. Competition in certification is a good thing.

    Don B,
    I wouldn’t put it past some ATCB, but the ONC people that I’ve met have been much more impressive than that. Plus, CCHIT would seem to be best positioned to have those ties and from what I can tell they don’t.

    Either way, EHR certification is a mess in general. Always has and likely always will be.

  • John, I assume we both came to the same conclusion about CCHIT independently… just like millions of others.

  • Here’s what I’d like to know: if Surescripts came out with its own e-prescription module, would it have to get a different ATCB to certify it? I’d assume the answer was yes, but Surescripts is a weird certification situation I don’t think anyone saw coming.

  • Don B –

    As the team lead for SLI’s application to the ONC I can assure you that our company has no political connections, traded favors or made contributions that won us our certification by the ONC. It was 10 weeks of grueling research by two independent companies (one company focusing on testing and the other certification) that resulted in a 1200 page application.

    The application was in two parts: part one required both companies to expand and/or create a Quality Management System for the new process. It’s no easy task to develop both a 17025 and a Guide 65 conformant QMS. Part two required the applicant to have a thorough understanding of EHR architectures as well the NIST testing procedures and tools.

    It was evident by the followup questions from the ONC that the application had been very carefully reviewed.

    Obtaining certification from the ONC was no easy task. I am proud to be a part of our companies significant investment in the ATCB testing and certification process.

  • Mark… Thanks for filling us in on the scrutiny your application received. Sorry for throwing the rock. Your quick response dispells my (and perhaps others) concerns. Good luck.

  • Michelle,
    They kind of do already. Don’t they have an ePrescribing product, or has something changed?

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. I was hoping that you would. I’m going to repost it over on EMR and EHR.

  • A good summary of the Surescripts business model:

    from Robert Rowley, MD – Practice Fusion’s Chief Medical Officer.

    Surescripts relies on its network of Prescriber software vendors, see:

    Please correct me if I’m wrong here.

  • The same Surescripts that certifies it’s gold and platinum partners – and now can provide the ONC-ATCB seal-of-approval which some people would argue is a conflict of interest – has now been hired by the ONC.

    ONC awarded Surescripts LLC, the electronic prescribing network, a $1.4 million contract to measure clinical transactions conducted through EHRs and the exchange of information via health IT across the U.S.

    I am sure they were already collecting the data for internal purposes – so why not get paid for it?

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