Watchdog: Accountability

Electronic patient records may be at risk, IG finds

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Lack of controls over electronic health records make them susceptible to fraud, the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general has found.

Nearly all hospitals with electronic health records (EHRs) — which are used to replace traditional paper medical records with computer documents — do have the recommended technologies for safe keeping. But, the IG found that they may not be using all of them to their full extent.

According to the IG, the annual cost of health care fraud is between $75 and $250 billion.

Some currently EHR features can result in "poor data quality or fraud," the report found." The "copy-paste" feature was pinpointed as a top area of concern.

Overdocumentation, or adding "false or irrelevant documentation" to make it seem there is backing for billing for "higher level services" was also called out by the IG. In some instances, spaces were autofilled by unnecessary information.

The IG's office sent out a questionnaire to 864 hospitals that received Medicare incentive payments as of March 2012, as well as having onsite interviews with hospital staff; also interviewed were vendors of EHR technology.

None of the hospitals visited by the IG's office were found to analyze their logs of patient data to prevent or detect fraud.

The recommendations given were concurred upon by HHS.

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Kelly Cohen

Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner