Mostashari to investigate EHR overbilling accusations

In the wake of charges that electronic health records encourage doctors and hospitals to overbill Medicare and increase the likelihood of fraud, National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari (pictured) said he and his colleagues will investigate the matter, the Center for Public Integrity reported.

In particular, Mostashari, who was interviewed Monday by the Center for Public Integrity, said that he would look into the practice of cloning, in which providers cut and paste information from prior notes into newer records. Cloning, he said, is "not good medicine."

Mostashari added the primary motivation for doctors in buying such technology should be improved care, not increased billing.

The Center for Public Integrity last month published an investigative piece that suggested that costs from upcoding added $11 billion to Medicare costs. That article had a snowball effect on the industry, leading U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to send a letter to five healthcare organizations--including the American Hospital Association--saying that they will keep an eye out for fraud and take action as necessary.

Four House Republicans then called the Meaningful Use program "weak" and "a waste of taxpayer dollars in an Oct. 4 letter to Sebelius. Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Wally Herger (R-Calif.) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) added that the Meaningful Use program "appears to be doing more harm than good," citing an analysis of Medicare data published in a New York Times article that referenced the Center for Public Integrity's original report.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives recently sent letters to each of the four congressmen in support of Meaningful Use, Healthcare Informatics reported.

To learn more:
- read the Center for Public Integrity article
- here's the Healthcare Informatics piece