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Meaningful Use Audits and the Inconsistent Appeals Process

Posted on November 6, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of a meaningful use audit yet, consider yourself lucky. They are not pretty, but I’ve never met anyone who actually enjoys an audit. Turns out that meaningful use appeals are even worse than most audits. It’s likely because the meaningful use appeals process are so new and they haven’t figured out their processes. However, if you’re a clinic on the wrong side of a new process, that’s not much consolation.

Meaningful Use expert, Jim Tate, has a fascinating look into the inconsistency of meaningful use appeals. Here’s one story he shares that will kind of blow your mind (or at least annoy and scare you).

“Two Set of Rules”: You are not going to believe this one, but it is true. I was contacted last week by a large practice. Two of their physicians had failed audits. Both appealed and won with the statement from CMS: “This is the final determination notice regarding your recent appeal….Based on our review of your Appeal Filing Request, supporting documentation and the Program policies, we have accepted the documentation your provided to support your appeal. Therefore, CMS upholds your appeal.” Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, two months later they received this from CMS: “CMS has reopened the review of your appeal and supporting documentation along with others from your practice. The documentation provided….is unsufficient to support the appeal and CMS is reversing….the decision to uphold your appeal. As a result, the final CMS decision denies your appeal and upholds the adverse audit finding. This decision is not subject to further appeal.” Is it just me or it this a little bit on the crazy side? They received from CMS a “final determination” that their appeal was upheld and then two months were told the “final determination” was being undone, the appeal would now be denied and “this decision is not subject to further appeal.” Both of the letters were signed by the same CMS official. Is it just me or do we need a little sunlight on the inner workings of this process?

Jim is right that there should be a clear process for meaningful use audits and appeals. It’s interesting that Jim tried to go to DC to visit with CMS about the process. Unfortunately, his request was denied. There’s nothing worse than hitting a dead end and people aren’t willing to listen.

Hopefully CMS will hear this story and act. It’s not fair to any organization to get stuck in a bad process.

Doctor “Salem Witch Hunt” – EHR MU Audits

Posted on July 10, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I always love to highlight some of the more interesting emails I get from readers of my websites. This one was a passionate response to the current meaningful use audits that are happening. Excuse any grammar or spelling errors, because it wasn’t intended to be published, but I think many doctors will relate to these comments.

Apparently there is a Doctors’ “Salem witch hunt” currently going on. The government wants its money back. The poor docs have no time to question the cpa company from nyc (rude from what I understand) that has been auditing heavily and making unreasonable demands on documentations after the fact. Remember I sent you an email. “MAKING RULES AFTER THE GAME HAS BEEN PLAYED”.

How I wish you would write an article about this. They have been heavily hitting practices with reasonable size emrs and torturing them…..

I really think this is a EMR/doctor salem witch hunt.

I’m not sure I totally agree that it’s a “Salem Witch Hunt” but I guess there are some similarities. The “after the fact” documentation part is the hard one. In many ways it does feel like the auditors are auditing for something that wasn’t well defined in the first place. This seems wrong to me. A lot of people made a good faith effort to show meaningful use, and they’re getting hassled by the MU audits.

Of course, we all want some accountability for the billions of dollars that were spent on meaningful use. I just don’t think the current audit program is providing that accountability. The fact that government wasn’t even ready for the data that’s being produced by EHRs and that MU was dumb downed to self attestation is about all we need to know when it comes to their concern for accountability.

I have heard that some of the larger EHR vendors have the EHR MU audit process down to a science. When one of their customers gets an audit request, they put together a packet for the clinic which they’ve refined to meet the auditors needs including things like screenshots from the EHR application to prove the meaningful use numbers. As if a screenshot can’t be changed either. I applaud EHR vendors that assist their customers like this, but is this really what we want our EHR vendors spending their time doing?

Meaningful Use Attestations With Faked Vendor Info?

Posted on April 17, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

When providers attest to Meaningful Use Stage 1 compliance, they have to identify the vendor whose EMR they used. But what if a large number of providers were faking this step in an effort to get incentive money that they don’t deserve?  That would be a lot of fraud, no?

Well, according to one vendor CEO, this could be happening on a large scale. Mike Jenkins, CEO of cloud-based vendor BuildYourEMR.com, reports that after going over CMS data on Meaningful Use, he found that a whopping 74 percent of providers who attested to using his company’s technology were not his customers.

Jenkins points out that if fraud were actually this common, a full $5.4 billion of the $7.6 billion paid out to providers would have been paid out in error. He admits that there could be something wrong with the CMS data, or that providers selected his company’s product name by accident, but concedes that it’s possible attestation fraud is more common than we think.

I’m not telling you this to suggest that the Meaningful Use program is riddled with fraudulent activity.  I’m doubful, in fact, that even a fraction of providers would dare incur the wrath of Medicare by making such a traceable error, much less consciously try to rip the incentive program off.

This does suggest, however, that more healthcare IT people should take a look at the CMS data and go over it themselves, especially EMR vendors. While there may not be a hailstorm of fraud going on, something may be seriously amiss in how CMS collects data or how providers report on their attestation.  It’d definitely be good to get ahead of any pending troubles with CMS, for sure.