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Meaningful Use Investigation Centers on Community Health Systems

Community Health Systems currently faces an investigation related to its ability to fulfill meaningful use requirements.

CHS is in the midst of an investigation related to compliance with meaningful use.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- Community Health Systems (CHS) is currently in the midst of a civil investigation into its ability to fulfill requirements of the meaningful use program, according to details contained within the health system’s Form 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The Tennessee-based health system spans 20 states and includes 118 hospitals.

The SEC filing for the quarterly period ending June 30, 2018, includes brief mention of an investigation into the health system’s adoption of EHR technology and compliance with federal reporting requirements.

The EHR Incentive Programs — which have recently been rebranded the Promoting Interoperability (PI) programs — offers incentive payments to eligible hospitals that demonstrate the ability to engage in meaningful use of certified EHR technology (CEHRT.)

“These payments are available for a maximum period of five or six years, depending on the program,” noted CHS officials in the SEC filing. “Our hospital facilities have been implementing EHR technology on a facility-by-facility basis since 2011.”

CHS officials stated the health system has received reimbursement through Medicare and Medicaid incentives in the past.

“We recognize incentive reimbursement related to the Medicare or Medicaid incentives as we are able to implement the certified EHR technology and meet the defined ‘meaningful use criteria,’ and information from completed cost report periods is available from which to calculate the incentive reimbursement,” clarified health system officials.

In a section of the SEC report devoted to legal proceedings, CHS officials said the health system was responding to a civil investigation demand related to “the Company’s adoption of electronic health records technology and the meaningful use program.”

This civil investigation was listed alongside other subpoenas and administrative demands that CHS is currently facing.

“From time to time, we receive inquiries or subpoenas from state regulators, state Medicaid Fraud Control units, fiscal intermediaries, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Department of Justice and other government entities regarding various Medicare and Medicaid issues,” wrote CHS officials.

The SEC filing did not provide details about why the civil investigation related to meaningful use requirements is underway.

CHS is not the first healthcare organization this year to face potential legal troubles centering on meaningful use requirements.

In January, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill filed a request to dismiss a lawsuit brought against 62 Indiana hospitals for allegedly falsifying records and participating in a kickback scheme involving the release of patient EHRs to meet meaningful use requirements.

South Bend attorneys Michael Misch and Bradley Colburn filed a claim alleging the hospitals defrauded taxpayers of more than $300 million by overbilling for the release of patient EHRs and making false claims in violation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

However, Hill requested to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that “any recovery of information is highly unlikely and not in the best interest of the state,” according to Indiana Public Media. Additionally, the state has “limited resources to investigate fraud and that this case will divert funds and personnel from other investigations without recovering funds for the Indiana Medicaid program.”

In 2017, eClinicalWorks paid a $155 million settlement to resolve allegations that the health IT company misled consumers about its EHR certifications and paid some customers kickbacks in return for positive product promotion.

As a result of obtaining false certification for its EHR technology, eClinicalWorks users acquired millions in EHR incentive payments for attesting to meaningful use.

The settlement has been cited in subsequent lawsuits, including a $1 billion class action lawsuit filed for breach of fiduciary duty and gross negligence following claims an individual died of cancer due to faulty patient EHRs.

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