While speaking at the 2011 HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition in Orlando, Fla., Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, outlined a three-part Call to Action for HIMSS and the health IT community to assist with the transformation of healthcare delivery in the U.S.
- First, be more than just advocates for health IT – advocate for healthcare transformation.
- Second, think creatively so that we can get more of the 70% of ambulatory care providers who do not have EHRs to adopt certified EHRs.
- Third, help the federal and state governments close the digital divide in health IT.
Ironically, as the Secretary was making her comments to the participants at HIMSS11, the HHS Office of the Inspector General was in the midst its annual review of current and possible Safe Harbors to the Anti Kickback Act Regulations, which include the EHR Donation Rules. These rules, adopted by the OIG in 2006, allow nonmonetary remuneration (includes items and services in the form of software or training services) necessary and used predominately to create, maintain, transmit or receive EHRs. IT hardware is not considered covered technology under the Safe Harbor.
When the regulations were adopted in the days before Meaningful Use, HHS leaders, being good government stewards, included a Sunset Provision for the EHR Donation Rules to conclude on Dec. 31, 2013. As the healthcare community has prepared for the Meaningful Use, we think this tool has become increasingly important to closing the EHR adoption gaps.
Taking the Safe Harbor away in mid-Meaningful Use would hamper locally driven adoption and implementation practices. So, in a letter to the HHS Inspector General, HIMSS strongly recommended removing the Sunset Provision and making the EHR Donation Rules a permanent Safe Harbor. Of course, we want HHS to implement necessary measures to protect against conflict of interest. We need to make sure this important tool is available to help providers achieve Meaningful Use!
So, how has the Safe Harbor and the associated Physician Self Referral Exemption from CMS aided adoption and implementation practices in your community?
Let us know your personal experience using the EHR Donation Rules to foster adoption so that we can share these success stories with key decision makers.