The Health IT Policy Committee on Aug. 14 approved recommendations to the federal government on establishing a new process for certifying electronic health records. To be eligible for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments under the federal stimulus bill, physicians and hospitals must be able to demonstrate "meaningful use" of certified EHR technology. Federal certification means that a system is able to achieve the minimum government requirements for security, privacy and interoperability, and that the system is able to qualify the user for bonuses under meaningful use standards. Currently, the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology is the only certifying body recognized by the federal government. But a policy committee work group noted that "considerable confusion" exists about the certification process used by CCHIT, so the panel recommends expanding the number of approved certifying bodies. CCHIT also has been criticized because it both sets criteria and certifies vendor systems, the work group noted. Eliminating the CCHIT monopoly on certification was part of five main recommendations that the policy committee made to the federal government. They are: * Focus certification on meaningful use. * Leverage the certification process to improve progress on security, privacy and interoperability. * Improve objectivity and transparency of the certification process. * Expand certification to include a range of software sources. * Develop a short-term certification transition plan. Regarding the final recommendation, the committee favors creating an expedited process so federally certified products can get to the marketplace as soon as possible. Recognizing that the meaningful use criteria and other items relating to certification must go through a regulatory process that is not likely to end until the beginning months of 2010 at the earliest, the short-term transition plan calls for establishing "preliminary HHS certification" so vendors who are developing products pending the release of the final regulations can be ready to move as quickly as possible after the regulatory process is complete. The committee recommends that certifications obtained during the transition period be valid at least through 2011, the first year EHR bonuses become available. CCHIT said in a statement that it has been working closely with the Health IT Policy Committee and that it concurs with the recommendations. The full and original article can be found here: