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HHS OIG Surveys Hospitals about EHRs

October 26, 2012—The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) Oct. 11 sent an 18-page, 54 question survey to hospitals that have attained meaningful use. The survey was part of a project included in the OIG’s 2012 and 2013 work plans. According to the work plans, the OIG “will also review multiple [evaluation and management] (E/M) services for the same providers and beneficiaries to identify electronic health records (EHR) documentation practices associated with potentially improper payments. Medicare contractors have noted an increased frequency of medical records with identical documentation across services.” 

The survey includes queries about audit logs, whether the hospital plans to adopt computer-assisted coding, user authorization methods, whether the hospital has a copy and paste policy, and barriers to allowing patient access to their EHR data. The OIG requested responses by October 26.

Farzad Mostashari, national coordinator, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), also announced that ONC will begin an internal review to determine whether EHRs are the source of some overbilling by Medicare, suggesting that some providers may be selecting codes that pay more for treatment, something known as “upcoding.”

In September, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to the AAMC and four other associations, saying “there are troubling indications that some providers are using [EHRs] to game the system, possibly to obtain payments to which they are not entitled [see Washington Highlights, Sept. 28].  

In his response, AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch noted that members of the AAMC’s Compliance Officers’ Forum “have volunteered substantial amounts of time to produce compliance advisories that have a twofold purpose: guiding institutions in the adoption and implementation of policies that are designed to support compliance; and alerting EHR vendors to the challenges that the system designs pose.”


Ivy Baer, J.D., M.P.H.
Senior Director and Regulatory Counsel
Telephone: 202-828-0499


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Washington Highlights, a weekly electronic newsletter, features brief updates on the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting medical schools and teaching hospitals.

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Jason Kleinman
Sr. Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Telephone: 202-903-0806