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January 2011

For Meaningful Use Payment: Goin' to the CHPL, Gonna Get a "CMS EHR ID"

Use of certified electronic health record (EHR) technology is a core requirement for physicians and hospitals to become “meaningful users” and to be eligible for payments under the Medicare or Medicaid EHR incentive programs.    Operationally, CMS requires providers who apply for these payments to submit the "CMS EHR ID" that their certified EHR technology is assigned.   Physicians and hospitals will benefit from an awareness of several issues revolving around EHR certification and on this CMS EHR ID, especially when "goin' to the CHPL" as noted below.

Awareness Issue #1:  The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in 2010 established a temporary certification program for EHR products.    A permanent certification program, which builds upon the current temporary program, is expected to be ready to launch by the end of 2011.   This program uses ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies to test and certify EHR products.   The list of certified EHRs is updated as new products are certified and posted on the Certified HIT Product List (CHPL) website.    CHPL is maintained by ONC and is the sole, designated authoritative list of currently certified EHR products.  

Awareness Issue #2:    ONC certification is different from that provided by the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT).    CCHIT certification is based on more comprehensive criteria.    CCHIT certification continues to be an important resource for those who are in the process of selecting an EMR because of this more comprehensive testing.    ONC certification testing, on the other hand, is specifically based on the CMS Meaningful Use criteria. 

Awareness Issue #3:   EHR products are tested and certified by ONC as either a Complete EHR or a Modular EHR.   A Complete EHR product is defined as an EHR product that meets all of the certification criteria for meaningful use.  A Modular EHR product is defined as an EHR product that meets at least one but not all meaningful use criteria.

Awareness Issue #4:   When a physician or hospital apply for their incentive payment they are asked to submit to CMS the "CMS EHR ID" that is assigned to their EHR product(s).  The CHPL website is the only place where this ID number can be found.  

Awareness Issue #5:    When looking for this CMS EHR ID number, it is helpful to know that this is not the same number ONC provides the EHR vendors when they are certified.    This is because some providers may decide to use a modular approach and combine Modular EHR products from different vendors in order to achieve meaningful use (i.e. a basic EMR without e-prescribing from one vendor and an e-prescribing module from another).  

Awareness Issue #5:   As the website works today, the CMS EHR ID can only be found on the "Grocery Cart" page and only after the <Get CMS EHR ID> button is activated.    One first selects their EHR product(s), puts them in their "Grocery Cart" and then goes to their <Grocery Cart> page.    The button becomes available when one has either:

  • selected a certified Complete EHR product

                                     or

  • selected a set of certified Modular EHR products that meet all of the certification criteria      

It interesting and helpful that CHPL provides real-time feedback when selecting a set of Modular EHRs.  Once all of the criteria are met, the <Get CMS EHR ID> button becomes available.  

Awareness Issue #6:    Regarding the modular option, the CMS certification process does not include integrated testing of all the possible permutations of Modular EHR sets that can be selected.    So even though a set of Modular EHR products may produce a CMS EHR ID on the CHPL website, this does not mean that the selected set of products were tested as an integrated unit.   This does mean that the physician or hospital who is in the EHR selection process should not depend on the CMS EHR ID to determine whether the selected products can be interfaced or work together.     Due diligence will still be needed to ensure all of the selected Modular EHR products are compatible.   

In other words, if you're goin' to the CHPL and gonna' get an CMS EHR ID, it's best to know your EHR partners well before purchasing and implementing them!