IT director: Get the CFO on board for any Stark EHR program

Why have so few hospitals actually helped affiliated physician practices purchase EHRs under the exemptions to the Stark self-referral and Medicare anti-kickback rules that specifically allow healthcare organizations to subsidize up to 85 percent of the cost? It could be lack of support from the chief financial officer, according to one Ohio health IT veteran.

"Finance views it as a big change for a hospital to sell something other than health care services," Doug Blair, director of ambulatory technology at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, said during a conference in Boston last week. Blair directed Stark-related programs at Mount Carmel Health System in Columbus, Ohio, before doing the same at Christ Hospital. But that's rather short-sighted thinking, Blair noted, because "hospitals sell bubble gum in their gift shops" and engage in other non-healthcare commerce.

Even if you can get over the CFO hurdle, a Stark EHR subsidy program still can be fraught with stumbling blocks. Blair said that hospitals should bring in attorneys to draft documents that indicate exactly how the program should work and engage accountants to determine related tax liabilities. He also recommended that hospitals should only agree to cover 75 percent of the cost of software, implementation and training to provide a cushion against the 85 percent legal maximum.

To read more about Blair's Stark suggestions:
- have a look at this Health Data Management story