HHS Announces Proposals To Facilitate Implementation of Electronic Health Records
HHS on Wednesday announced proposals to help facilitate the use of electronic medical records and electronic prescriptions nationwide, CQ HealthBeat reports. The proposals include exceptions to self-referral laws to allow hospitals and certain health care organizations to provide hardware, software and related training services to physicians for EHRs and electronic prescriptions. In addition, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced a proposed "safe harbor" to protect physicians and hospitals that donate EHR and electronic prescription technology from enforcement action by the HHS Office of Inspector General under the federal anti-kickback statute.
CMS might establish a cap on the value of the technology that donors can provide to reduce the potential for arrangements in which physicians would receive payment for patient referrals. Leavitt called the proposals a major step toward implementation of EHRs within 10 years. Supporters maintain that the proposals "can reduce costs and improve care," but some privacy and consumer advocacy groups have raised concerns that they might endanger patient privacy.
Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, said that the proposals might "remove a major impediment to development of these information technologies" through increased private funds to help facilitate their use nationwide.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Medical Group Management Association, the cost of installation and maintenance of such technologies represents the main obstacle to their implementation, and physicians also have raised concerns that health insurers will benefit most from their use. HHS will accept public comments on the proposals for 60 days (CQ HealthBeat, 10/5).