The Certification Commission for Health IT (CCHIT) has lost any hope for a monopoly on certifying electronic health record (EHR) software for meaningful use.
A final rule establishing a temporary certification process rejects the group's petition to maintain its position, which it thought it had established late in the Bush Administration, as the market gatekeeper.
Even the work it has done over the last year, acting as an unofficial certification authority, won't count.
The group, now headed by CIO Karen Bell, put out a statement saying it was reviewing the rule and still hoped to become a certification authority. CCHIT will now have to apply to become a certification authority along with other groups, like The Drummond Group.
While reformers who disapproved the CCHIT's ties to the HIMSS trade group may applaud the decision, the industry is still left with a difficult problem.
That is, the first meaningful use deadlines under which sweet, sweet stimulus cash will be doled out are fiscal 2011, and fiscal 2011 starts October 1. Given that even a temporary certification authority must still be chosen, and that group must then certify gear before clinics and hospitals can buy with confidence, meeting the deadline now appears impossible.
Final rules on handing out the cash have yet to come down, and the industry has petitioned to have the rules watered-down, but the language of the final certification rule shows NCHIT David Blumenthal is in little mood to compromise.
Another question left unanswered, writes David Harlow of HealthBlawg, is whether Blumenthal's process will dovetail with possible FDA regulation of health software as "devices," so that going through one agency's process will satisfy the other.
Meaningful use is a laudable goal, but the demand for change seems to be outrunning the industry's ability to meet the new demands. How much of that stimulus cash actually goes out the door is becoming increasingly uncertain.