Healthcare 3 minute read

What is ONC Health IT Certification for EHRs?

Want your EHR to be federally approved?
Table of Contents

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) is an area of HealthIT that has experienced significant growth over time. According to market research, the global EHR market is expected to exceed 40 million U.S. dollars by 2024, indicating a substantial increase in demand for these systems. 

As a consequence, HealthIT companies are coming up with different types of EHR technologies or EHR-integrated solutions. These EHRs are enabling providers to boost patient engagement, simplify clinical documentation, and ensure a seamless flow of health information between physicians, care teams, and facilities. 

However, with a wide range of EHRs available, it is overwhelming for healthcare providers to decide on a solution to boost clinical productivity & streamline daily operations.

While providers consider several factors to choose a reliable EHR (product demos, reference calls, site visits, etc.), one helpful indicator of a secure, federally approved EHR is the ONC HealthIT certification. 

But, what is an ONC HealthIT certification and why is it needed as a stamp of approval for Electronic Health Records (EHRs)? Let’s find out in the segment below. 

What is ONC HealthIT Certification Program? 

ONC certification aims to validate healthIT solutions for their ability to meet necessary standards, security measures, and implementation specifications. It’s a third-party conformity assessment scheme, i.e. ONC collaborates with other organizations to evaluate, approve, and authorize EHR solutions on its behalf. It’s based on the principles of the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) framework. 

The ONC Health IT certification is an initiative by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) to control the cost of healthcare and improve treatment outcomes. Through the Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs offered by CMS, healthcare providers can receive financial incentives for successfully adopting and utilizing qualified EHR systems in their practices. These incentives can help offset the costs associated with EHR implementation and encourage healthcare providers to make the switch to digital record-keeping.

By implementing incentive programs, healthcare providers are encouraged to improve their administrative and clinical practices. This leads to increased efficiency and effectiveness in patient care, ultimately helping to control healthcare costs.

In order to meet the criteria for any of the CMS Incentive Programs, an EHR software module or system must comply with the specific requirements defined by CMS. These requirements are codified by ONC in its HealthIT certification criteria, originally published in 2014. The criteria were last updated in 2015 to reflect the advances in IT technologies. The updated criteria increased the minimum level of functionality for EHR modules and systems, listed under the 2015 Edition Base EHR Definition.

For HealthIT organizations to achieve the ‘2015 Edition Certified EHR Technology (CEHRT)’, it is essential to pass certain criteria.

The 2015 CEHRT criteria are program-agnostic, i.e. the ONC-certified EHRs support varying use cases, needs, and incentive programs, which include long-term care, chronic care management, and behavioral healthcare. For EHR systems to be ONC-certified, it has to support the following criteria:

  • Health data exchange & access 

ONC-certified EHR must facilitate health data exchange & access through data export facilities. The EHRs should allow care transitions and third-party integration via an application programming interface (API). 

  • Enhanced demographic data capture

ONC-certified EHR systems capture granular data related to ethnicity, race, socioeconomic factors, behavioral health concerns, psychological history, etc. of the patients. 

  • Segment sensitive data 

ONC defines segmenting as the process of isolating certain data from being accessed, captured, or viewed by users. Data segmentation allows healthcare providers to decide which data elements are eligible for exchange, under what circumstances the access should be granted & for what period of time. 

  • Standardization across the care continuum

The EHR systems should incorporate the latest vocabulary and content standards. This will enable structured documentation, recording, and exchange of health data. The data stored in a structured format allows healthcare providers to conveniently retrieve and transfer patient information. 

Why does ONC Health IT Certification Matter?
For considering an EHR system for implementation, healthcare organizations can consider the following elements: 

  • EHR Usability 
  • Interoperability with health systems
  • Health data exchange capabilities
  • Price of the EHR system 
  • Available features & functionalities 

While the HealthIT certification is a trust-worthy selection criterion, it should not over-power the elements listed above. The EHR selection criteria should be powered by rigorous feedback from clinicians, staff members, and leadership to ensure that the shortlisted solution is the right fit for providers across the care continuum. 

Complying with an EHR with ONC Health IT Certification 

To align with the requirements of the 21st Century Cures Act, ONC continues to refine the certification program to facilitate practical health IT assessments. The program underwent revisions in the year 2017 to ensure providers are able to enhance clinical efficiency and mitigate regulatory & administrative burdens. 

To make it easier for health IT companies to develop ONC-certified EHR solutions, the developers are facilitated to self-attest to comply with 30 functionality-based certification criteria. This process would be an alternative to getting certification from Authorized Testing Laboratories (ONC-ATLs). 

At Unthinkable, we comply with EHR solutions with ONC health IT certification, along with other essential compliances such as HIPPA, State or local regulations, etc. 

If you’re a Health IT organization, building an EHR and want it to be federally approved, then our EHR specialists will guide your way.  Schedule a call to know how we have created ONC-certified EHR solutions in the past and how we can help your health IT business as well. 

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