What Does "Certified EMR" Really mean?

“Certified” simply means that the software has passed the certification threshold for at least 10 of the specified test standard instituted by the ONC Standard and Certification Criteria Final Rule. The test methods can be found at NIST (You can find them at: http://xw2k.nist.gov/healthcare/use_testing/finalized_requirements.html)   

Certified does not mean that the software is a good match for your medical specialty or that the software company is the right choice for your practice.  Certification in no way rates the software vendor for helpful, efficient product support or staff training.  In fact, usability of the software is not a factor in the certification process at all.  If an EMR requires that your staff complete 15 steps to enter a patient’s allergy that is fine, since certification only requires that your software display and store a list of your patient’s allergies, the efficiency with which you accomplish this task is not important…for certification that is.    From a business owner’s perspective, entering allergies in a few steps versus 15 is a much more efficient use of staff time, and leads to an increase in productivity.

An EMR should allow a provider to see patients efficiently, allowing for thorough documentation with an increased level of care and co-ordinated follow-up.  If your practices’ EMR or the software you are currently evaluating doesn’t do that, certification doesn’t matter.   An inefficient EMR will cost you more than the $44,000 (or broken down over the 5 years = $176 per week) in incentive funds that CMS is offering for eligible providers for adoption of a “certified” EMR.  

Find the software that works best for your medical practice, for you individually and then ask about certification.  Find out where your software developer is in the certification process, whether they are currently certified or are in the process of becoming certified.  You will find that most EMR software developers are in some stage of the certification process, but ultimately the most important thing to consider is not if an EMR is certified, but if it fits your practice, the certification is really secondary.


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