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Electronic medical records certification aims at data sharing

To promote better patient access to their digital health information, EHR certification requirements now include provisions for interoperability and APIs.

Health information management vendors have long sought voluntary electronic medical records certification as they sell EHRs and related products to healthcare systems.

One new twist in the certification process was unveiled earlier this year as part of the MyHealthEData initiative, which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) introduced at the HIMSS 2018 conference.

In a fact sheet on the new program, CMS outlined steps it has taken to promote better patient access to protected health information (PHI), including finalizing requirements for providers to use 2015 Edition certified EHR technology (CEHRT) beginning in 2019 to report electronic clinical quality measures.

The 2015 Edition "includes technical requirements focused on interoperability and the ability of patients and their care teams to share healthcare data more effectively through APIs," according to the fact sheet.

In broad strokes, MyHealthEData sets the tone that patients should have full control of their digital health information. Through the initiative, the White House Office of American Innovation and federal health agencies want to bring patients easier access to their PHI in a secure and private setup, Seema Verma, administrator for CMS, told attendees at the HIMSS event.

Regulators view greater access to PHI as a cornerstone of value-based healthcare efforts. "We will not achieve value-based care until we put the patient at the center of our healthcare system," Verma said.

Electronic medical records certification rooted in HITECH

Seema Verma, CMS administratorSeema Verma

Electronic medical records certification is not new, with its origins tracing back to the HITECH Act of 2009.

We will not achieve value-based care until we put the patient at the center of our healthcare system.
Seema Vermaadministrator, CMS

HITECH set up a financial incentive program starting in 2011 for providers who demonstrated meaningful use of EHRs, which lasted until 2015 (after which point providers received fines for not demonstrating meaningful use). These provisions required that eligible hospitals use CEHRT.

Since then, CMS has proposed an overhaul of meaningful use as a way to redirect EHR momentum toward promoting PHI interoperability.

Health IT vendors voluntarily submit their EHR products to federally authorized, third-party test labs. After undergoing successful testing, the products receive certification from authorized, third-party groups.

Although voluntary, the electronic medical records certification process is not toothless. Failure to meet certification conditions can be costly.

For example, in 2017, EHR vendor EClinicalWorks signed a False Claims Act settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over allegations that the company's software did not meet criteria for a certified EHR, according to the government. The settlement cost EClinicalWorks $155 million in penalties, although the vendor admitted no wrongdoing.

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