Proposed Rule for ONC-AA Enforcement Will Clarify Permanent Certification Program

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A recently proposed rule on enforcement policies for accrediting bodies under the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology should be welcomed by the health IT community because it clarifies some "gray areas" in the permanent certification program, according to IT industry experts.

Having a process in place in the event that an ONC-approved accrediting body is negligent is a good safeguard, Mary Griskewicz, senior director of ambulatory health information systems for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), told BNA June 1.

The proposed rule, which appeared in the May 31 Federal Register (76 Fed. Reg. 31272), addresses what behavior would be considered improper conduct by an ONC-approved accreditor (ONC-AA), the potential consequences for engaging in such conduct, and a process by which the national coordinator may take corrective action against an ONC-AA (see previous article).

The permanent certification rule, published in the Jan. 7 Federal Register (76 Fed. Reg. 1262), calls for one organization to act as an accrediting body for the multiple certification entities that will test and certify electronic health record systems and electronic health record modules that providers will use to meet Medicare and Medicaid "meaningful use" incentive program criteria (see previous article).

Proper Checks and Balances

As the certification program matures, it will be further refined with the right checks and balances, leading to the improved quality and safety of the health system, Harry Greenspun, senior advisor of health care transformation and technology at the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, told BNA June 6.

"This rule ensures that the ONC-AA is a properly constructed organization," Greenspun said.

According to Greenspun, industry stakeholders that may have had concerns about whether certification programs are adequately thought-out and have enough resources should be comforted now that ambiguous parts of the regulations are being addressed.

HIT Implementation Still Needs Clarification

As providers complete the attestation process for the meaningful use program, other issues may need clarification from ONC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Greenspun told BNA.

One such area that will need to be addressed by ONC is the nationwide creation of an HIT infrastructure, particularly access to broadband services in rural areas of the country, he said.

Greenspun anticipated that as providers implement health information technology systems, similar issues may arise that will need clarification.

Public comments on the proposed rule for ONC-AA enforcement are due Aug. 1.

By Genevieve Douglas  

The proposed rule is available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-05-31/pdf/2011-13372.pdf .