Hospitals recoup EHR costs with doc bonus 'assignments'

Hospitals providing electronic health record systems to eligible physicians can defray some of their costs by having the physicians agree to forward, or "assign" their incentive bonus payments back to the hospital. According to an article outlining the practice published in eSource, the electronic newsletter of the American Bar Association's Health Law Section, the option may be particularly appealing to hospitals that have installed EHR technology in clinics or outpatient centers.

"Assignment, where possible, is an excellent opportunity for hospitals to recoup some of these costs," says Los Angeles-based attorney Abigail Wong Grigsby, author of the article.  

Grigsby notes that the physician must voluntarily agree to assign his or her bonus payment to the hospital. The hospital also must meet certain regulatory requirements; for instance, to obtain a physician's reassigned payments under the Medicare incentive program, the hospital has to be in a billing arrangement with the physician.

The assignment agreement between the physician and the hospital also should be in writing, and address a number of provisions, such as who will document meaningful use and who will submit the forms to the government.

However, a hospital does not have to qualify for incentive payments in order to receive bonus payments earned by a physician. The assignment process can begin as early as when the physician first enrolls in the incentive program, according to Grigsby.

To learn more:
- here's the eSource article
- check out the ABA website's Health Law Section