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To obtain the maximum possible incentive payments from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an eligible dentist must acquire, implement, or upgrade a certified EHR system and demonstrate "Meaningful Use" of that certified EHR system over a number of years. 

The current Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC or ONCHIT) EHR Certification Program became fully operational on October 4, 2012.  Before that date, EHR products could be certified under the Temporary Certification Program (TCP), which began in 2010. 

The Certification Process

Certification and testing activities under the original Temporary Certification Program (TCP) were conducted by ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ONC-ATCBs). 

The most significant difference between the TCP and the current ONC HIT Certification Program is that certification and testing activities must now be conducted separately. Certification is now completed by ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies (ONC-ACBs) while testing is performed by Accredited Testing Laboratories (ATLs). It is possible for a single organization to serve as both an ONC-ACB and an -ATL, as long as the organization establishes a firewall between testing and certification activities.

Once the product is certified, the ONC lists the product on its Certified Health IT Product List (CHPL). Several dental EHR products have been certified and may be found in the ambulatory EHR product list at the CHPL site.

Also, an EHR product may be certified as either a complete EHR or as a "Modular" EHR.  Complete EHRs meet all the certification criteria for a certain "Edition" of the ONC certification criteria, whereas Modular EHRs require the eligible provider to implement additional software to meet all of the certification requirements.  In the CHPL, Modular EHR listings include information about the additional software necessary to satisfy the certification criteria.

Two different sets of EHR testing and certification criteria are used currently by the ONC-ATLs and -ACBs, the 2011 Edition and the 2014 Edition. Briefly, the 2011 Edition EHR certification criteria cover functionalities and capabilities that eligible providers need in order to attest successfully for Meaningful Use Stage 1. 2014 Edition EHR certification criteria cover functionalities and capabilities that eligible providers will need in order to attest successfully for Meaningful Use Stage 2. A third phase of Meaningful Use is planned. Information about Meaningful Use Stage 3 and any related EHR certification criteria is not yet available, but the ADA is monitoring closely and will share any news as it becomes available.

ONC EHR Certification Resources

ONC Certification Programs and Policy

ONC Certification Programs Resources

ONC Certified Health IT Products List (CHPL)

Permanent Certification Program for Health Information Technology Final Rule (PDF) 

Most Recent EHR News 

May 16, 2013

Knowing the Basics of EHR Incentive Programs (PDF)
Cathy Costello, J.D., Project Manager for Regional Extension Center Services for the Ohio Health Information Partnership
Herminio S. Navia, Jr. RN, Program Director, NJ-HITEC Medicaid Specialist Program

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American Dental Association
Department of Dental Informatics
Phone: 312.440.2500
ADA business hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. US Central Time.