The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has launched the Health IT Standards and Testing website with the first installments of a new health IT test method and related software.
Starting in 2011, the federal government will provide extra Medicare and Medicaid payments to physicians’ offices that implement health IT systems conforming to specific technical standards and put to “meaningful use”, performing specifically defined functions. Late last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) identified the required standards and provided a concrete definition of “meaningful use.” To help physicians’ offices evaluate possible health IT systems against these requirements, the HHS’s Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) has established a national health IT certification program.
As mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), NIST and HHS are working with health IT system vendors, standards organizations that include the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel, certification bodies and system implementers to develop a suite of software tools to support the health IT testing infrastructure. The tools are intended to help vendors test their health IT products and ensure basic functionality, such as the calculation of body mass index or proper formatting of common electronic health records in XML (eXtensible Markup Language).
The health IT testing infrastructure does not create any new standards, only the tools necessary to test for compliance with existing standards that HHS announced late last year. Testing laboratories will use these tools in the testing component of the certification programs established by ONC. ONC has stated its intention to use NIST’s National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) to perform the accreditation of testing laboratories.