Nursing homes to have first look at new quality-rating provisions today

Long-term care providers might soon be able to look for the government’s seal of approval when shopping for electronic health records systems, if newly proposed certification criteria take effect.

Generally, the realm of long-term and post-acute care has been excluded from the government’s Meaningful Use program, through which providers get financial incentives for implementing electronic health records and meeting goals for their use. To qualify for Meaningful Use payments, hospitals and physicians have been required to implement EHRs that are government certified as having a basic level of capabilities.

While long-term care providers still are mostly on the sidelines of the Meaningful Use program, the government now has proposed voluntary certification criteria for the EHR systems used in nursing homes and post-acute settings.

The draft criteria are “focused on interoperability, privacy and security, and modularity that will improve providers’ access to the functionality they need from their electronic health records,” Larry Wolf wrote in a blog Wednesday. Wolf is co-chairman of the Certification and Adoption Workgroup of the Health IT Policy Committee, which was asked by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to draw up the certification guidelines.

Proposed certification criteria include the ability to “create, maintain and transmit” Minimum Data Set assessments and data sets, and to support the exchange of information among different providers. The ability to create report templates needed by surveyors is among recommendations “proposed for future work.”

EHR certification should create more uniformity in the market, addressing the issue of nursing homes implementing widely varied systems, Wolf noted. He cited a 2004 report in which 43% of nursing homes reported a lack of uniformity as a big health IT impediment.

Providers are encouraged to weigh in via the ONC’s public comment template. They also can sign up to offer testimony during a public call on May 22.