The security and integrity of electronic health records will be one of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General's highest priorities in 2014 and beyond, according to the OIG's latest strategic plan.
The plan, released Nov. 21, identifies EHRs as one of the OIG's "key focus areas" until at least 2018. Its focus on EHRs is part of a larger priority of addressing long term operational and program vulnerabilities in health IT that also includes the securing the accuracy and completeness of Medicaid data and the privacy and security of personally identifiable information.
"OIG will continue to advise program administrators and policymakers on promoting the secure and effective use of data and technology," the strategic plan says.
The integrity and security of health information systems and data has been one of OIG's top management issues. OIG has stated that health IT is a major management issue for HHS; the lack of security of electronic data leads to false claims; that shortcomings in the oversight of the Meaningful Use incentive program will adversely affect that program's integrity; and that improper EHR use can result in improper billing. OIG's 2013 work plan also focused on EHR-induced fraud.
OIG provides independent and objective oversight of more than 300 HHS programs, including ONC EHR support initiatives and EHR subsidy programs. Its goals include fighting fraud, waste and abuse, promotion of quality, safety and value, and advancing excellence and innovation.
Some of the recommendations OIG has made to HHS regarding EHRs include increased enforcement of privacy and security of data, recommending best practices that providers should adopt, and verification and auditing of providers attesting in the Meaningful Use program.