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Government News
Will Your EHR System Qualify?
Psychiatric News
Volume 45 Number 19 page 29-29

Physicians hoping to receive federal incentive payments for health information technology (IT) adoption should ensure that the electronic health record systems they purchase are certified by one of two entities recently authorized to determine which of those systems qualify for the federal funds.

The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) and the Drummond Group Inc. were selected by federal officials in August to test and certify whether available electronic health record (EHR) systems meet standards set by the Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year.

The selection of certification bodies by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is expected to set off a scramble for certification by EHR system vendors. Physicians must use a certified EHR system to receive health IT incentive payments that total either $44,000 through Medicare or almost $64,000 through Medicaid over several years (see Money Will Be Carrot to Convince M.D.s to Speed Adoptionof Digital Records).

Of the two new certification bodies, CCHIT has a history of creating industry standards for health IT systems. For instance, earlier in the year it launched new certification programs for EHRs in the mental health area, both as an optional addition to standard ambulatory-care EHR program certification and as a stand-alone mental health EHR system for physicians who don't already use a general ambulatory-care-based EHR program.

Physicians who already have an EHR system installed in their practices, and those planning to add one, should ask their vendors whether that company plans to seek federal certification, advised Robert Plovnick, M.D., M.S., director of the APA Department of Quality Improvement and Psychiatric Services, in an interview with Psychiatric News.

"If you intend to get the incentive payments, then make sure your software qualifies," Plovnick said.

The ONC has said that it will soon post an online list of certified EHR systems from various vendors.

Even after selecting and implementing a certified EHR system, physicians still must demonstrate "meaningful use" of those digital systems by following federal regulations governing the extent to which the systems must be used. The regulations were issued in July (Psychiatric News, August 6).

Physicians who qualify for the federal incentive payments will begin receiving them by May 2011. However, as long as physicians have begun using qualifying EHR systems by October 2012, they can still qualify for the full reimbursement.

More information about the certification groups is posted at <www.cchit.org> and <www.drummondgroup.com>. APA has posted information on EHR incentives at <www.psych.org/Departments/QIPS/EHR--National-Initiatives-page.aspx>.blacksquare

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