Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are invaluable in today’s medical practice. Not only do EHRs help improve the flow of data across providers and practitioners, but they can increase access to information quickly. However, as with any technology, there is a risk of bloat and inefficient use. EHRs are no exception, and the expansion and growth of EHR products has led to interoperability issues as well as information bloat through gathering, storing, and making available too much information. To help improve interoperability and EHR performance, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has developed a Health IT Certification program.
The certification program—originally launched in 2010 and last updated in 2015—has improved and evolved over time to account for advances in health technology as well as improvements in medical practice, such as the development and growth of EHRs.The certification has expanded to cover both government and non-government programs as well as supporting interoperability and data exchange standards. Additionally, new standards ensure that health providers and practitioners are fully informed regarding system limitations and additional implementation costs. The program helps provide a consistent standard for Health IT, including EHRs.
ONC Certification is conducted by third-party organizations who are reviewed and approved by the ONC. These organizations ensure that Health IT products meet the strict approval qualifications and are responsible for the final certification. Additionally, these organizations perform regular audits to ensure that previously approved technologies maintain the required standards for certification, thus providing for a consistent level of performance.
The 2015 update included several important updates, namely guidelines for data exchange and interoperability. As technology advances and care coordination networks become increasingly vital to providing whole-person, community-supported care, the ability for local providers to work with and effectively exchange information across broader networks becomes a critical consideration, and an ONC certification may help in ensuring that consistency.
ONC certification is a valuable tool for helping ensure consistency and performance of a Health IT system and a critical component of improving the impact of EHRs. The ONC has shown a commitment to maintaining, improving, and adjusting the certification to meet the changes and growth within the healthcare industry.