By Ben Regaldo, contributing writer
If you saw the recent announcement by Allscripts, a major electronic medical records (EMR) provider, that it has released the first fully certified 2015 edition, some questions may arise, such as: What is certification? Does it matter? What’s different about the 2015 edition?
Certification essentially means that an independent reviewer (Authorized Certification Body, or ACB) compared the product’s features against a detailed listing of standards, and then notes which standards are met.
The federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC-HIT) maintains the Certified Health IT Product List (CHPL, found at chpl.healthit.gov). The CHPL is a comprehensive and easily navigable database of the multitude of EMR products available. By sorting through this database, you should be able to find your product, as well as see all the products that are independently certified with regards to 2011, 2014 and 2015 criteria. Think of it as the Joint Commission of EMRs. The CHPL enables users to easily make precise “apples to apples” comparisons of the various software products on the market, all while noting what standards are met by each product.
The overarching goal of certified software is to assure that necessary health information is being appropriately captured, stored and secured in a manner that allows for easy exchange of information between providers who may not be on the same systems. Proper software should also support the tracking and benchmarking of health care data, solely for the benefit of the providers, as well as patients.
Certification reviews cover how the software versions enable what was once known as “Meaningful Use” (Stages 2 and 3), as well as the many Clinical Quality Measures from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Rolled together, these are the standards that allow you to meet elements of the new Merit-based Incentive Payment Systems (MIPS) methodologies, which will determine positive/negative adjustments to your Medicare payment rates in the years ahead.
Under the new MIPS scoring system, a total of 25% of your score comes from meeting standards in what is now known as Advancing Care Information. There are about 60+ items on this list – 48 of which are reviewed in the certification process.
It is important to note and understand that “required” does not mean a system must demonstrate the criteria or it fails certification. This simply means that the element was previously considered “optional” and meeting said element was not required for full certification.
With the release of the 2015 edition, comes the removal of different criteria that made up the prior version. Unfortunately, out of the 2014 criteria that was removed in 2015, having advance directives was amongst them. Certain items were also changed. For example, the clarifications on the electronic submission of Clinical Quality Measures has been sorted into two standards – reporting and filtering.
However, if anything the 2015 criteria changes demonstrate the desire of the ONC-HIT to promote the evolution and expansion of exactly how EMRs are used.
For example, some items are no longer noted as optional in the 2015 criteria, most importantly computerized provider order entry (CPOE) for medications, laboratory, diagnostic imaging. Along with the CPOE, it is also worth mentioning the accounting of disclosures, as well as the transmission of information to cancer registries and public health organizations.
Alongside the criteria that was removed, new criteria were added as well. The most notable addition signifies the ability of the EMR system being able to maintain Implantable Device Lists and Social, Psychology ad Behavioral Determinants Data. Beyond merely sharing this information, the ONC-HIT is encouraging the creation and exchange of data in a “common clinical data set,” which is demonstrated by the broadening of data transmission to public health agencies.
With a wide range of products on the market, you don’t need to be looking for a new product in order to evaluate your own routinely. Instead, just look at how your product stands up against the certification criteria/different products to shed some light onto some useful features that you may not be using to your advantage. Doing so will allow your providers to deliver better and more coordinated care for your patients, no matter where they are in the healthcare spectrum. Use the certification criteria as a tool to help you run your practice more efficiently, ultimately delivering the best possible experience for your patients. That’s what it’s all about, right?