Now there are three! On Monday, August 30, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) approved the first two organizations, Drummond Group, Inc., and the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) to act as Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ONC-ATCBs) of EHR technology. Then, on September 24, 2010, InfoGard Laboratories, Inc., Inc. was approved by the ONC bringing the total number of approved ONC-ATCBs to three.

Physicians and EHR companies must compete in the healthcare marketplace, and now there is real competition in the EHR certification space. The federal government has now taken the lead on certification by establishing EHR “Meaningful Use” measures. Formally, the only way for EHR vendors to attain any certification was to seek approval from CCHIT. One might ask: does it matter if we follow the government’s lead or CCHIT’s? The answer is obvious: the federal government has provided the carrot (incentive payments starting 2011) and the stick (decrease in Medicare reimbursement starting 2016).

This is a good thing for the EHR industry, for physicians, and their patients. Even with federal stimulus dollars, getting every provider to implement EHR technology and then assuring that those different EHR software products communicate with each other is a daunting task. It will take years, but without the carrot and stick approach, it would have taken decades.

Regulation, whether it mandated by the government or CCHIT, can sometimes seem arbitrary and can interfere with usability. Some of the government’s Meaningful Use measures seem like a road to nowhere, but every EHR vendor and Eligible Professional (EP) will march to the government’s drum because of the incentive payments tied to Meaningful Use. Make no mistake about it: the government is leading and, like it or not, we have to trust that they are steering our industry in the right direction. One thing that’s for sure with regard to standards and certification — CCHIT is following just like the rest of us!