Is Your EHR Vendor Still There?
One of the questions seldom discussed by EHR providers is how long the EHR provider will be around. Not only is this an important question from the standpoint of the viability of EHR systems, whether server based or cloud based, but also with regard to provider compliance with federal and state patient record retention requirements.
In most cases, physicians are required to maintain patient records and PHI availability for 6, 7 or even more years. If your medical records are being maintained electronically, how can you ensure that they will be around in 6, 7 or more years? This is particularly concerning when using EHR systems where the data will reside somewhere other than your hospital or your medical office. Does your contract with the EHR system provide for daily backups by your EHR vendor to an independent and protected site? In a format that is usable and readable even if the EHR company goes bankrupt or otherwise ceases to exist or perform its function?
Some physicians are being lured by EHR vendors who offer their EHR customers patient medical billing services. Either the EHR side or the billing services side is offered as a heavily discounted function. On paper or on a PowerPoint presentation these systems often look to be the answer to every medical providers dream-a relatively inexpensive package of medical record keeping and medical billing.
And they may be so in some cases, but in other cases these vendors cease to exist or do not perform as promised. From the practical side, this can cause serious problems with a practice when it’s billing and patient collections suddenly stop working according to promises or when electronic patient health record information is suddenly not available.
Our take away:
- Have an experienced healthcare attorney review your contracts to make sure the contracts contain adequate provisions for multiple locations or multiple server storage of your EHR, your billing data and your patient collection data in an accessible and recoverable format.
- If you purchase an EHR patient record/practice patient billing ‘package’ make sure there are performance standards for not only the EHR system, but also for the medical billing and collections side. Also make sure that you can sever the connection of the package and take back one function or the other without losing access to the remaining data whether it be EHR or patient billing and collection.
- Look at the history of the EHR provider-has it been around all of 3 months or 6 months or 10 years? Is it financially strong? Will it be here in 5 years or 10 years?
- Consider whether the “eggs all in one basket” approach to combining EHR and billing is too risky.
Hot In Phoenix
A doctor from the Valley of the Sun is named among a dozen doctors, marketing professionals, and pharmacy owners accused in using a sham medical study to defraud a government program called TRICARE of over $100 million. The fraud scheme centered on CMGRX, a Dallas company. United States Prosecutors’ claim that this company and a related compound marketing group arranged kickbacks to doctors who prescribed and sent patients to four compounding pharmacies.
The defendants face up to ten years in federal prison.
McKesson Specialty Health Indiana recently announced the plan to establish an office in Evansville, Indiana in connection with its Vantage Oncology services. Another McKesson unit also made the news recently by agreeing to pay a record $150 million settlement with the Department of Justice. In 2008, McKesson paid $13.25 million as a civil penalty and entered into an Administrative Agreement for violations relating to the Controlled Substances Act. According to the Department of Justice, from 2008 to 2013 McKesson supplied various US pharmacies an increasing amount of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone pills, pills which are frequently misused and are part of the current opioid epidemic.
The government alleged that McKesson, after the 2008 Agreement, did not fully implement or adhere to its own program.
The new Settlement Agreement requires enhanced compliance terms for 5 years, to pay $150 million, and to agree to specific, rigorous staffing and organization improvements, auditing, with additional financial penalties for failure to comply with the compliance terms and to engage an independent monitor to assess compliance. According to the DOJ, this independent monitor is the first of its kind in a Controlled Substance Act civil penalty settlement.
This newsletter is edited by Paul Wallace of Jones • Wallace, LLC, a member of the American Bar Association Healthcare Law Section and the American Health Lawyers Association who has been representing physicians and healthcare practices for over 25 years. Mr. Wallace assists physicians, practices and hospitals in contract items, federal legal compliance, practice entity creation, estate and wealth planning and similar issues. Please feel free to call if you have any questions on this newsletter or legal matters at (812) 402-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.