If hospitals' bills to federal healthcare programs are increasing through the use of electronic health records, it may be because of improvements in documentation and a lack of national standards for gauging the intensity of some treatments, industry groups asserted in response to a critical letter from two federal agency chiefs.
Healthcare groups issued those reactions swiftly after receiving a letter Monday from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that publicly warned hospitals it is illegal to use electronic health records to inflate bills through "false documentation." "Law enforcement will take appropriate steps to pursue healthcare providers who misuse electronic health records to bill for services never provided," Sebelius and Holder wrote in the letter.
Organizations representing hospitals and healthcare providers said they, too, opposed fraudulent use of records. However, outmoded federal billing rules may be contributing to a perception that some hospitals code medical bills more aggressively than others, particularly with emergency department treatments, the groups said.