GAO report identifies EHR legal obstacles

By Healthcare IT News
12:00 AM

A report by the General Accounting Office suggests that the government has not fully addressed all legal issues that would come into play in efforts to promote widespread adoption of healthcare information technology.

The report was released in mid-August and requested by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

"Various laws present barriers to adoption of health IT, and at the time of our review, HHS' efforts to address these barriers had been limited in scope," the GAO report concluded.

Laws that may inhibit implementation of healthcare IT include fraud and abuse, antitrust, federal income tax, intellectual property, malpractice and state licensing.

"In the area of fraud and abuse, both the Physician Self-Referral (Stark) Law and the Anti-kickback Law present barriers by impeding the establishment of arrangements between providers - such as the provision of IT resources - that would promote the adoption of health IT," the report says.

The GAO researchers concluded that, absent clarification of how these laws affect healthcare IT arrangements, providers will be reluctant to make significant investments in healthcare IT.

The report is one of the first indications that the government's proposed framework for strategic action in healthcare IT, proposed in late July, might face legal concerns.

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