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OIG Warns Health IT Companies of False Claims Consequences

The federal agency alerted the public to the importance of legitimate EHR certification and warned health IT companies of the consequences of false claims.

EHR Certification

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- The Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently posted a video emphasizing the importance of health IT companies being transparent about the legitimacy of their EHR certifications to avoid false claims.  

“If an electronic health records company falsely represents that its software has functions that it actually lacks, patient safety could be at risk,” stated the video.

The federal agency’s public service announcement comes in the wake of the $155 million eClinicalWorks settlement.

The health IT company was charged with misleading customers about the legitimacy of its EHR certifications and paying some customers kickbacks in exchange for positive product promotion, according to the Department of Justice (DoJ).

“Data is inputted into an EHR software system that reflects the care that’s provided,” said OIG Senior Counsel John O’Brien. “It’s very critical that everything be accurate. If there’s any defects in that software, critical tests and medical prescriptions may not be accurately processed and that may have detrimental effects on patient care.”

OIG mentioned eClinicalWorks by name and stated the health IT company misrepresented its capabilities.

Despite being directly referenced in the video as a health IT company guilty of these transgressions, eClinicalWorks denied all allegations in the lawsuit earlier this summer. 

“eClinicalWorks was causing healthcare providers who used its software to submit false claims to the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program,” said O’Brien. “It was doing this because its software actually didn’t meet the criteria required for software to be certified in this program.”

The federal agency marked the settlement as a milestone in the healthcare industry.

“This settlement is important because it’s the first settlement with an electronic health record software company — so we’re entering an entirely new area of healthcare fraud,” said O’Brien.

OIG also sent a clear message to health IT companies regarding the severity of false claims in EHR certification, hinting that the agency will continue investigating other companies if necessary.

“The message OIG wants to send to the healthcare community is that we take the certification for EHR software very seriously,” he stated. “There is no room for manipulating this process and making false statements during the certification process.

“OIG will vigilantly, along with its law enforcement partners, investigate any conduct that places patient safety at risk and that causes losses to the federal healthcare program,” O’Brien concluded.

While the settlement has been cause for concern for some patients and federal officials, eClinicalWorks is attempting to move on and continue to expand.

The Massachusetts-based health IT company recently announced a period of continued growth and success in Q2 of 2017. 

eClinicalWorks stated the second quarter marked its strongest sales month of 2017, with over 1,000 providers choosing its EHR software in June.

“In the first six months of 2017, 70 percent of eClinicalWorks' new providers switched from different EHRs, which included Greenway, Allscripts, NextGen, athenahealth, and Practice Partner,” stated press release. “Organizations are switching to eClinicalWorks because it offers a suite of tightly integrated cloud solutions to help practices deliver quality care, increase ROI, and attract new patients.”

Additionally, while some patients are troubled by the allegations, a recent KLAS study showed only 4 percent of eClinicalWorks customers plan to seek a replacement EHR as a direct result of the settlement.

A majority of surveyed eClinicalWorks users reported viewing the vendor in a more negative light following the allegations. Still, about a third report being satisfied with their EHRs, and those who do intend to change vendors mostly cited reasons other than the settlement as drivers for the switch. 

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