More EHR misery: EHR payment cutoff, data breach

US EHR Stage 2 payments a waste? In September and October, Congressional Republicans scored Health and Human Services (HHS) on “weak” EHR interoperability standards under Stage 2 of the HITECH Act and called for temporary suspension of EHR incentive payments to providers until new interoperability rules are created to significantly increase what is expected under ‘Meaningful Use’ (MU). Interoperability means that records flow freely between practices, patients and health networks. While one would expect HHS to pay little mind to the (perceived) opposition, even with a fiscal cliff looming, the usually friendly New York Times actually kicked this off with a September investigation that contended that EHRs may contribute to higher Medicare costs and billing fraud because the electronic systems enable frequent ‘upcoding’ to higher rates. “Physicians changed the way they submitted claims for office visits, which increased payments to them by billions, as well. The Times found that aggressive billings by just 1,700 of the nation’s 440,000 physicians cost Medicare $100 billion in 2010 alone.” (Dark Daily)

(Updated) Are the wheels falling off Health Information Exchanges (HIE)? Complicating all this for providers is that at least two prominent ‘exchanges’ (HIEs, also known as RHIOs) necessary to meet current¬†interoperability¬†standards for Stage 2 MU payments have failed due to funding or the quaintly vague term ‘lack of sustainability’. Do the failures of the Washington DC RHIO (!) and the Kansas statewide HIE point to larger problems with the entire structure?¬†DC HIE carries on without RHIO (EHR Intelligence)

For developers and funders in the healthcare technology area, more uncertainty around EHRs points to this scenario: with a budget crunch all but certain, the possibility of withdrawing or slowing down remaining ‘stimulus funding’ may further brake EHR investment, slow practice adoption, accelerate consolidation among the hundreds of vendors in the field–and make other health tech investment even more attractive. [TA 27 Nov]

EHR data breach: In more bad EHR news, Alere, a company the Editors have noted on their sharp moves in the telehealth area with WellDoc and MedApps, unfortunately suffered a data breach in their Alere Home Monitoring group with the theft of a single laptop containing 116,000 EHRs containing names, Social Security numbers, diagnostic codes and dates of birth. From the articles, whether the data or access was encrypted strongly enough is in question. iHealthBeat, Alere release