In efforts to help the nation's health care industry make the transition to the digital age in an effective and meaningful fashion, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published a set of approved procedures for testing information technology systems that work with electronic health records (EHRs). Released in draft form earlier this year (see "NIST, Partners Develop Testing Infrastructure for Health IT Systems," NIST Tech Beat for March 16, 2010, at http://www.nist.gov/itl/hit_031610.cfm), the approved and finalized testing procedures are now available for use.
Under a certification program established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator (HHS/ONC), testing organizations authorized by HHS/ONC can use the tools to evaluate EHR software and systems that vendors would like to sell to doctor's offices, hospitals and other health care providers. Starting next year, the federal government will provide extra Medicare and Medicaid payments to health care providers that implement EHR systems certified to meet ONC requirements that conform to technical standards and are put to "meaningful use," performing specifically defined functions.
These ONC-approved test procedures help ensure that electronic health records function properly and work interchangeably across systems developed by different vendors. The set of 45 approved test procedures evaluate components of electronic health records such as their encryption, how they plot and display growth charts, and how they control access so that only authorized users can access their information.
The development of these tools was mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in order to support a health IT infrastructure.
Notice of the approved test procedures appears in the August 9, 2010, Federal Register. For more information, see http://healthcare.nist.gov/use_testing/finalized_requirements.html and http://healthit.hhs.gov/certification