A big second step has been taken in the movement to accelerate the use of electronic health records (EHRs) in the long term and post-acute care setting (LTPAC) with the announcement by the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) that the first two software products for use in the LTPAC sector received certification, according to a leading expert in the field.

Cynthia MortonCynthia Morton, executive vice president of the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care, told Provider that the CCHIT-Certified 2011 LTPAC program sets the groundwork for assuring providers that the time and money they plan for EHRs is being well spent on quality and usable products.

“This is especially important for providers wading through the EHR/HIT issue who are not super familiar with the area, might not have a high-ranking CIO [chief information officer] in the company, and are smaller ‘mom and pop’ operations,” Morton says.

The second reason for the importance of the CCHIT certification process is interoperability. Now more than ever, LTPAC providers need to work with partners across the health care continuum, and the certification process helps that happen with its stamp of approval, she says.

LTPAC providers “are working more with hospitals and have to exchange records back and forth to ensure patient safety,” Morton says. The goal for LTPAC providers and all providers is to avoid rehospitalizations, an issue made even more key with the federal government’s agenda to improve quality care and reduce costs, rewarding providers who do well and penalizing those who do not in reducing rehospitalizations.

The products certified under the CCHIT program for 2011 were AOD Software of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., with its Answers EHR version Autumn 2011, and HealthMEDX Vision of Ozark, Mo., with its HealthMEDX Vision version 7.1.10.

LTPAC providers are not currently eligible for EHR adoption incentives under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) HITECH program. The ARRA incentives are based, in part, on hospitals showing electronically that they meet quality measures and share patient information with other providers.

“It’s an advantage to LTPAC providers who want to form partnerships with hospitals to adopt CCHIT-certified LTPAC EHRs,” says John Derr, leader of strategic clinical technology for Golden Living and a member of CCHIT’s board of trustees.

“CCHIT’s certification of an EHR’s integrated interoperability and security features will prove invaluable as providers seek to participate in community health care organizations designed to foster coordination across the spectrum of care.”

In addition, LTPAC EHRs may be certified in the federal Office of the National Coordinator EHR certification program for eligible providers and hospitals if they meet certain criteria.

CCHIT also offers special EHR certification programs for cardiovascular medicine, child health, emergency departments, behavioral health, dermatology, oncology, and clinical research.

More information on the CCHIT program and how to apply for certification is at www.cchit.org.