Risk Management Concerns Arising Out of HITECH and the Hospital Re-admission Penalties Program

Guest post by James Hofert, Roy Bossen, Linnea Schramm and Michael Dowell, all partners with Hinshaw & Culbertson.

James Hofert
James Hofert

New federal healthcare legislation and implementing regulations, seek to exert control over multiple aspects of patient care. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (“HITECH”)[i] with staged implementation through 2016, seeks to not only promote implementation of electronic health record systems (“EHR”), but also regulate electronic communications of health information by and between the patient, physician, hospitals and other healthcare institutions so as to enhance care quality, care coordination and reduce costs.

HITECH further envisions implementation of clinical decision support algorithms for the diagnosis and treatment of disease both during admission and after discharge. The Hospital Readmission Reduction Program[ii], effective October 1, 2012, consistent with the objectives of HITECH seeks to financially penalize hospitals for higher than standardized readmission rates for heart failure, acute MI and pneumonia. The Center of Medicine and Medicaid Service (“CMS”) intends to expand application of the program to readmission for COPD, elective total hip arthroplasty and elective total knee arthroplasty in 2015[iii].  Consistent with preventative care goals so as to mitigate further health care problems as found in HITECH, CMS has refused to adjust the re-admission penalty program to account for readmissions unrelated to the patient’s initial hospitalization even though the readmission could be considered to be outside the hospital’s or physician’s control[iv].

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