CMS won't punish eClinicalWorks customers for meaningful use EHR attestations

The agency said clients that attested in good faith will not have to pay the money back despite the vendor’s $155 million settlement over alleged false claims.
By Tom Sullivan
04:28 PM
eClinicalWorks electronic health record

Customers of eClinicalWorks can breathe a little easier.
As soon as word got out that the U.S. Department of Justice settled a False Claims Act case with eClinicalWorks, the company’s clients started asking whether they might have to pay back incentives for which they used the EHR vendor’s software to attest to meaningful use criteria.

The good news came on Thursday. 
“Providers that in good faith successfully attested using eClinicalWorks software and received an incentive payment will not have to repay the incentive payment,” a CMS spokesperson said late Thursday.  

The DOJ on May 31 announced that eClinicalWorks agreed to pay $155 million to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit that involved giving customers kickbacks and fraudulently obtaining the certification necessary for hospitals to attest to meaningful use with eClinicalWorks software.

 Of that $155 million, $30 million went to the whistleblower Brendan Delaney, a former New York City employee who worked at the Riker’s Island prison. Delaney alerted authorities after finding several problems, including the software combining one patient’s record with that of another person as well medication module errors, security problems and tracking lab results incorrectly.

The DOJ, for its part, charged that eClinicalWorks falsely obtained meaningful use certification by concealing its software’s limitations from the certifying body, added 16 drug codes necessary for certification into its software instead of enabling the EHR to access those via an external database, failed to accurately log users actions or record diagnostic imaging orders, did not equip the software to conduct drug-drug interaction checks and neglected to satisfy data portability requirements so doctors can transfer patient data to another EHR.

The DOJ settlement hit eClinicalWorks hard. Not only is the $155 million a hefty chunk of the private company’s estimated $440 million annual revenue but, under terms of the agreement, the vendor must upgrade existing customers to a new version or transfer their data to a rival EHR, both free of charge. And the agreement mandates that it retain an Independent Review Organization watchdog to monitor eClinicalWorks activity for five years.

But while eClinicalWorks will be more closely watched moving forward, its customers are now in the clear — at least from the viewpoint of CMS.

“CMS realizes that providers may rely on the software they use for accuracy of reporting,” the CMS spokesperson said. “CMS does not plan to audit eClincalWorks providers based on the settlement under which eClinicalWorks has agreed to repay approximately $125 million to the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive payment program.” 

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