OIG spokesman on hospital surveys: 'We're trying to be prospective'

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Office of Inspector General's recent survey sent to hospitals that have attested to Stage 1 of Meaningful Use regarding fraud and abuse safeguards in electronic health records certainly has garnered a lot of attention of late.

There's also been speculation that the OIG's 2013 work plan and the survey were a reaction to both the recent publicity from the Center for Public Integrity and the New York Times regarding how EHRs may spur improper billing by providers and the resulting letter from the federal government warning that such fraud won't be tolerated.

However, OIG has been on top of this for a while now, spokesman Donald White told FierceEMR in an exclusive interview. While the issue is included in the OIG's 2013 work plan, which was released Oct. 3, right after the three events noted above, EHR fraud first was identified as an issue in its 2012 work plan. In that document, OIG clearly states that it plans to report on fraud in fiscal year 2012.

White said he was surprised by all of the attention the survey is receiving.

"We're trying to be prospective," White said. "A lot of times we collect the data and find something different" than what was expected.  

Additionally, White said he was surprised that people thought that the questionnaire was overbroad by asking questions that delve into HIPAA compliance and Meaningful Use, as well as fraud and abuse. He pointed out that the security of patient data is "extraordinarily important" and said that OIG has issued similar reports on it in the past.

"The mission of OIG is to see that HHS departments are effective and efficient and make good use of taxpayer funds," he said.