Docs should be wary of anti-kickback laws when implementing HIT

This week's Health 2.0 Spring Fling in Boston is, more that anything, a celebration of innovation in healthcare--as evidenced by the announcement that Health 2.0 has awarded more than $1 million in through its Developer Challenge series--but a panel session on the opening day of the conference outlined the importance of being cautious regarding technology innovation, implementation and use.  

Healthcare attorney and blogger David Harlow, one of the panel members, said that despite the evolution of technology use in healthcare, anti-kickback laws governing arrangements of its use have remained stagnant, according to a post on EHR Intelligence. "Unfortunately, the statute hasn't kept up with the times very well," Harlow said.

What's more, he said, safe harbors--conditions under which providers can avoid anti-kickback penalties--aren't the most ideal method for circumventing those statutes because safe harbor conditions are very exact. "The arrangement that you have really has to fit within the four corners of that safe harbor in order to get protection … so it's a very tricky area," Harlow said.

A second panel member, Dan Orenstein, general counsel for electronic health record vendor athenahealth, expressed disappointment in the federal government's handling of safe harbors to date, especially considering its push for increased health IT use.

"You would think that the government would be doing more to expand … to enable all of the innovation it says it wants," he said, according to EHR Intelligence.

According to Health 2.0 News, fellow panel member Jack Eiferman, another healthcare attorney, added that the goal behind anti-kickback laws was for decision making to "remain unsullied."

"[Lawmakers] want the decision making by healthcare providers to be pristine, to be uninfluenced by any of the considerations in the commercial marketplace," Eiferman said.

To learn more:
- read this EHR Intelligence post
- here's the Health 2.0 News post

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