EHRs under attack? A quick review of the OIG 2016 work plan

On Nov. 2, the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General released its annual work plan for the upcoming year. The OIG 2016 plan pushed for a renewed critical focus on electronic health records and various facets of health IT in general. 

A notable section of the OIG dossier concerned Medicaid incentive payments for EHR use. As detailed by the plan, Medicaid incentive payments have been rewarded to healthcare providers for engaging in meaningful use of certified EHRs. The payments have been distributed over a half-decade period, and over $20 billion has been spent by Medicaid on the incentive payments. The OIG stated in the plan that  it intends to monitor Medicaid data in an attempt to ascertain which healthcare practices have received wrongful payment. This is determined through an assessment of the hospitals and physicians that failed to meet meaningful use standards. According to FierceEMR, increased Medicaid payment scrutiny is a continuation of a policy implemented last year.

Is the FDA under fire?
Perhaps most significantly, the OIG 2016 plan highlighted security concerns with regard to growing EHR use. The most striking example pertained to the U.S Food and Drug Administration: The OIG is questioning the efficacy of the FDA's monitoring of networked medical devices in hospitals. Devices such as medication dispensing systems and dialysis machines are connected to patient EHRs, and as such, the data, which is transmitted wirelessly, is arguably less secure. The OIG 2016 plan stated that it intends to critically focus on the FDA's attempts to safeguard electronic health information. 

Certainly, according to FierceEMR, in the past the OIG has regularly articulated concerns over the security of EHRs. This year is seemingly no exception: In what is essentially a warning to the industry, the OIG promised to increase overall surveillance of health IT for potential security or integrity issues. As the plan explained, the OIG will critically examine issues that could arise with regard to interoperability, meaningful use and the adoption of health IT in general.

What else was covered in the OIG 2016 plan?
As FierceEMR explained, the plan touched on a number of other important areas of health IT for investigation. This included, but is not limited to, an examination of the extent to which HIPAA's EHR contingency planning is met by hospitals, as well as a look at accountable care organization and their employment of EHRs to facilitate care coordination.

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Kevin McCarthy

Industry News Editor

An avid traveler and news junkie, Kevin covers a range of topics from healthcare technology to policy and regulations. As a former journalism student, he enjoys finding stories relevant to small practices and is passionate about keeping them informed. Before joining NueMD, Kevin worked for Turner Broadcasting as a Programming Intern where he conducted legal research and contributed to editorial content development. He received his bachelor's degree in Communication from Kennesaw State University and currently serves as the Industry News Editor at NueMD.

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