The American Hospital Association is urging the federal government to go further with proposed rule changes to antikickback and physician self-referral regulations which it says fall short in giving hospitals a safe harbor for providing physicians with health information technology software and training -- and, in so doing, lessens the potential positive impact and coordination of care that using electronic health records could offer.
Without this safe harbor, "Hospitals will not feel confident that they can donate IT items and services without risk of prosecution," wrote AHA Executive Vice President Richard Pollack, in a Dec. 5 letter to HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson. "The (office of the inspector general's) failure to provide an antikickback safe harbor imperils an important opportunity to increase physician use of EHRs and thereby significantly improve quality of care for patients." The letter was submitted in response to the solicitation of public comments on the proposed rule changes.
In a Nov. 7 message to AHA members, Pollack encouraged hospital officials to submit comments on the proposed rule changes to the OIG and the CMS before the Dec. 12 deadline.
Pollack's letter urged the OIG to expand the proposed list of protected donation recipients to include physician assistants and nurse practitioners, as well as skilled-nursing facilities and other "federally qualified health centers."
"Safe harbors that address hospitals' concerns will go far toward achieving the policy goal of increasing physician use of IT and expanding information exchange," Pollack wrote. "Without these changes, hospitals will not have the needed flexibility to work constructively with physicians to realize the promise of IT for improving quality of care." -- by Andis Robeznieks