ONC commitee addresses EHR billing, documentation problems

The government has begun to investigate documentation issues related to electronic health records amid concerns that it's not paying enough attention to improper billing, according to a recent article by the Center for Public Integrity.

At a hearing held by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's HIT Policy Committee Feb. 13, National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari said that it is not yet known whether the higher billing reflects inappropriate coding, according to the article. ONC announced the launch of an investigation on improper "cloning" of EHR notes last October.

Several witnesses at the hearing--which covered a range of clinical documentation issues with EHRs--honed in on EHR documentation problems. Officials from the American Health Information Management Association, for instance, noted that "inadequate" attention to documentation could compromise EHR use. Amy Baer from the Association of American Medical Colleges, specifically addressed the billing issue, recommending, among other things, that the "copy-and-paste" function in EHRs be limited and stating in her testimony that "technology alone cannot mitigate the risk of fraud and avoid misrepresentation."

However, the article noted that the Committee spent less than an hour listening to witnesses, and suggested that "officials aren't likely to quickly resolve concerns about potential fraud and abuse even as they commit up to $30 billion in government funding to encourage doctors and hospitals to purchase electronic records."

Other governmental entities have indicated that they'll take action against potential EHR billing fraud. At least one Medicare billing contractor has announced that it won't pay for cloned EHR notes, and the Office of Inspector General has included the EHR billing issue in its 2013 work plan.

To learn more:
- read the Center for Public Integrity article