ONC requires EMR vendors to “conspicuously” post the following disclaimer on all marketing material related to the certification status of their EMRs:
This [Complete EHR or EHR Module] is 201[X]/201[X] compliant and has been certified by an ONC-ATCB in accordance with the applicable certification criteria adopted by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. This certification does not represent an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or guarantee the receipt of incentive payments. [emphasis mine.]
How ironic is that? Why is the government unwilling to make guarantees for a program that is government defined, government funded, and based on testing and certification conducted according to government specifications?
Could it be that ONC knows how difficult it will be for providers to actually achieve meaningful use and expects that many will fail? At its February 24, 2010, meeting—in the midst of the certification rule-writing process—the HIT Standards Committee went to great lengths to point out that certification only provides assurance that the capability for meaningful use exists, further clarifying as follows: “It will be up to the physicians to struggle to use the EMR to demonstrate meaningful use.” The government is abdicating its responsibility for having created an extremely burdensome and onerous program, and is attempting to shift responsibility for failure over to the physicians themselves.
The only people claiming to offer guarantees are the EMR vendors, and the required warning shows that ONC is concerned about their incessant marketing of deceptive promises. The following is just one example of the meaningful use “guarantees” that vendors have been promoting on their websites and in the proliferation of ads and webinars:
Federal Stimulus Bonus Payment Guarantee Program: This program guarantees that eligible physicians using our EHR, [product name], will receive their HITECH Act incentive payments for meaningful use.
Fine print buried on the website:
The Guarantee does not apply to any physician who fails to meet either of the following: (1) The standards under applicable privacy and security rules, and (2) specific required quality or administrative outcomes with specific performance goals. Both of these are outside of [vendor]’s control and can only be met by the individual physician. . . . Of course, in order to remain eligible for the Guarantee, each physician must actively use our solution to meet “meaningful use” criteria.
So why does ONC deny that certification is an endorsement by HHS? Tying $36 billion of government money to the use of particular products is about as significant an endorsement as there could be! The only explanation I can come up with is that ONC does not want to be responsible when many physicians—particularly the high-performance specialists—find, as they consistently have in the past, that these systems do not work in their practices.
As I have said in prior posts, “buyer beware!”