Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Uncovering the ONC-ATCBs: What’s the Difference?

The passing of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act has led to many changes in healthcare and healthcare IT. One of these is the certification of electronic health record (EHR) applications. EHRs that have been certified by ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ONC-ATCB) can meet meaningful use criteria under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). These solutions allow their adopters to become eligible for Stage 1 incentives.

But who are the organizations that test and certify these EHR companies? As of today, there are six different organizations that have been authorized to complete this testing: Surescripts; ICSA Labs; SLI Global Solutions; InfoGard Laboratories; CCHIT; and Drummond Group. All six certification bodies conduct testing on EHR modules. Surescripts is the only organization that has chosen not to certify complete EHRs; instead, it has chosen to focus on e-prescribing, its area of expertise.
While the six bodies are free to conduct the certification testing as they see fit, they all follow a very similar format. It generally goes as follows:
  • Reviewing the certification application
  • Providing pre-testing support
  • Testing via remote conferencing that usually only lasts one day
  • Reviewing test results by an internal and independent panel
And while all groups offer remote testing, the amount of on-site support differs for each group. For example, InfoGard, ICSA Labs, SLI Global and Drummond Group offer to test on-site, while CCHIT sticks with remote testing. Actual testing by each body is very similar for all six groups: Each module usually takes about two to four hours, while complete EHRs take more time. Each body uses some combination of score cards, screen shots, conference recordings, and freehand documentation when conducting reviews.

So what makes the six groups different? For one thing, their backgrounds are all unique. While CCHIT has been certifying EHRs for a number of years, the other groups have other backgrounds in software testing. SLI has been engaged in software application testing for years. Surescripts is the leading US e-prescriber. InfoGard was the first computer testing lab certified by the NVLAP. ICSA has been conducting neutral-testing for vendors for more than two decades, and the Drummond Group has extensive software testing experience in other fields.

All bodies have helped numerous EHRs gain certification. Vendors that are looking into Stage 1 certification and beyond should consider the customer service abilities and expertise of each group to aid their pursuit of ONC-ATCB certification.

Rahul Patel
Assistant Project Manager, Physicians EHR

This information is courtesy of Software Advice (website here). For more information on ONC-ATCB certification and electronic health records, see: Uncovering the ONC-ATCBs: What’s the Difference?

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