HIMSS Requests Delay in EHR Certification Deadline

Ken Terry

April 14, 2017

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has asked the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to postpone the start date of new electronic health records (EHR) certification requirements from January 1, 2018, to July 1, 2018, to give EHR vendors and healthcare providers more time to develop, test, and implement the new software. HIMSS represents health information technology (IT) professionals in provider organizations as well as many EHR developers in the HIMSS EHR Association.

In an April 11 letter to HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, HIMSS noted that it supports the 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria that were published in October 2015. However, the association said, vendors and providers need at least 18 months to develop, test, and implement new applications after the government issues regulations that require their use. The healthcare community, HIMSS said, did not receive all of the test tools required for 2015 Edition EHR development and certification testing readiness until recently, making the January 1 deadline impracticable.

"As of early April 2017, very few vendor products are certified to the revised 2015 Certification Criteria; this jeopardizes the requirement that health IT must be certified to the 2015 Edition for the Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Programs and the Quality Payment Program (QPP)," the letter said.

To date, the only major vendors that have had their EHRs 2015-Edition-certified are Epic and Allscripts, according to the federal government's Certified Health IT Product List; Cerner is expected to join them by the end of the year, according to Politico.

"Necessary Time"

Delaying the start date of the certification requirement for 6 months, HIMSS said, would "increase the likelihood that providers, vendors, and consultants have the necessary time to ensure products complete the certification process, are fully tested and implemented, and staff training and workflow adjustments are achieved to ensure safe, effective and efficient implementation and use of 2015 Edition Certified EHR Technology (CEHRT)."

Both the government's EHR incentive program, still in effect for hospitals, and the QPP, to which most physicians are already subject, require the use of EHR technology certified under the 2015 Edition criteria, starting January 1, 2018. This year, eligible hospitals and clinicians may use EHRs with either 2014 Edition or 2015 Edition certification.

If HHS decided to postpone the requirement that all providers use 2015 Edition EHRs, that would affect the Advancing Care Information (ACI) portion of the QPP's Merit-based Incentive Payment System. Currently, ACI includes 11 "transition" objectives and measures that physicians can report on this year using 2014 Edition EHRs. Starting January 1, 2018, there will be 15 ACI objectives and measures, some of which will require the use of 2015 Edition EHRs. Among these are enhanced interoperability measures, the ability to reconcile clinical data from outside sources with EHR data, and the ability to accept patient-generated health data in an EHR.

HIMSS reiterated its support for the QPP and for the government's effort to transform healthcare with the help of health IT. For that reason, the letter said, HIMSS is asking for only a 6-month postponement in the deadline.

"HIMSS welcomes the opportunity to work with HHS to foster a nationwide culture where health IT is optimally harnessed to transform health and healthcare by improving quality of care, enhancing the patient experience, containing cost, improving access to care, and optimizing the effectiveness of public payment," the letter noted.

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