The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has issued a final rule to establish a permanent certification program for health information technology applications, particularly electronic health records systems and modules.

ONC filed the rule on Jan. 3 and it's available at It will be published Jan. 7 in the Federal Register. ONC expects the permanent certification program will begin on Jan. 1, 2012. In the event of a delay, the existing temporary program will continue until the permanent program is ready.

Under the final rule, ONC will select one organization, called the ONC-Approved Accreditor or ONC-AA, which will accredit entities wishing to become a health I.T. certification body. The final rule details ONC's competitive process for selecting the ANC-AA. The chosen organization will serve a three-year term and can be reselected following another competitive selection process.

Once an entity is accredited by the ONC-AA, it then can apply to ONC to become an ONC-Authorized Certification Body, or ONC-ACB. ONC anticipates the permanent program will have approximately six ACBs. Certification bodies operating under the temporary program, which currently numbers six, must go through the same processes as other entities to become a certifier under the permanent program. Selected ONC-ACBs must renew their status every three years.

As the Department of Health and Human Services adopts new or revised certification criteria in future rules, previously certified Complete and Module EHRs may go through a streamlined "gap certification" and be tested and certified for only the applicable new or revised criteria.

--Joseph Goedert


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