Electronic Health Records Lead to Higher Billing
Electronic health records, touted as a way to lower Medicare billings, actually could be raising costs, a new study says.
According to a report in The New York Times, electronic health records (EHR) make it easier for physicians and hospitals to bill more for services. They cited Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare in Utica, NY. That facility’s billings rose 43 percent in 2009, the same year it started using electronic health records. At Baptist Hospital in Nashville, billings rose 82 percent in 2010, the year after it began using an electronic billing system for its emergency room procedures.
In general, billing for Medicare services has been climbing at a staggering rate. A report by the federal Office of the Inspector General found that between 2001 and 2010, billings from physicians and health care facilities increased from $77 billion to $110 billion. The report identified 1,700 physicians nationwide whose billings increased the most. Many of the doctors were primary care or internal medicine physicians.
The Times analysis showed a link between those increased billings and the providers’ use of electronic records. Hospitals that used EHR increased the amount they billed by 47 percent between 2006 and 2009, while hospitals that didn’t showed a jump of 30 percent. Ironically, the government offered cash incentives to practitioners for implementing an EHR system.
The reason for some overbilling with EHR, the Times said, may be as simple as the ability to cut and paste on a computer or tablet, making it seem as though the physician gave more patients more detailed exams or services than may actually have been the case.