OIG senior counsel: eClinicalWorks settlement hints at ‘entirely new area’ of fraud

Special report: Homegrown fraud task forces promote collaboration
The CEO of eClinical works wants to move on, but OIG appears focused on investigating EHR software fraud.

While the CEO of eClinicalWorks tries to move on from the company’s recent false claims settlement, a senior attorney with Office of Inspector General said the case opens up a new avenue for healthcare fraud.

OIG Senior Counsel John O’Brien underscored broader impact of the federal government’s recent case against eClinicalWorks in a video  released by the agency. The EHR software company was accused of falsifying Meaningful Use certification and agreed to pay $155 million for prompting improper EHR incentive payments.

RELATED: eClinicalWorks settlement hints at broader certification infractions throughout the EHR industry

“This settlement is important because it’s the first settlement with an electronic health records software company,” O’Brien said. “So we’re entering an entirely new area of healthcare fraud.”

O’Brien described the EHR certification fraud as a patient safety concern since labs, critical tests and prescriptions may not be accurately processed using software that doesn't meet the government's certification requirements.

Meanwhile, eClinicalWorks CEO Girish Navani wants to move on from the company’s legal troubles, telling Healthcare IT News that the vendor is focusing on product innovation, customer service and improved compliance. But he declined to rehash the allegations in the government's lawsuit.

“What happened, why it happened, how and why we handled it, nobody will win with that discussion. It’s not worth it,” he said.

A recent survey showed eClinicalWorks lost favor among its customers following the lawsuit, although only a small percentage said they were switching vendors because of the settlement. The company added 3,000 providers in the second quarter according to the Worcester Business Journal.

Former officials with the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT have said eClinicalWorks was not the only software company sidestepping certification. The OIG recently identified $729 million in improper incentive payments, which some lawmakers want the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to recoup. Meanhile, the watchdog agency has another review of the incentive program in the works.