Electronic health data security among HHS top management challenges

Improper payments, contractor oversight also make the list
Tools

The Department of Health and Human Services should play a more active role in educating physicians about protecting patient data in electronic health records, according to a report from the HHS Office of Inspector General.

That recommendation was just one of those contained in the OIG's annual report of the top management challenges facing the agency. Addressing the importance of protecting the security of health information systems, it noted that electronic records allow for a centralized repository of patient data, but such systems "can also be used to fabricate information, generating improper payments and corrupting patients' records with inaccurate and potentially dangerous information."

The report lists among the agency's top 10 challenges implementing the Affordable Care Act, identifying and reducing improper payments, and providing better oversight of Medicaid and Medicare contractors. It called for improved data quality and data analysis in tackling those last two.

On the security issue, it recommended that the agency provide more guidance on best practices and standards for EHR adoption and conduct compliance reviews to ensure that health care providers are adopting sufficient privacy and security standards, according to Bloomberg BNA.

The report also listed better oversight of the Food and Drug Administration among the top management challenges, especially the need to monitor drug and device manufacturers to ensure that products are not being marketed for off-label use. It said the FDA needs to improve its oversight of drug and device regulatory decisions.

The OIG's work plan for 2013 states it will focus on the role of EHRs in Medicare overbilling.  That announcement and a hospital survey that garnered a lot of attention seemed to be a reaction to publicity from the Center for Public Integrity and The New York Times about how EHRs may spur improper billing by providers, but OIG spokesman Donald White told FierceEMR that the issue also was included in the 2012 work plan.

Meanwhile, amid claims that peddlers of fraudulent healthcare apps face few repercussions, the FDA is expected to publish rules for regulating healthcare apps by the end of the year – it they survive the political wrangling going on.

And adding to its management challenges, HHS was among five federal agencies recently dinged in a report by the Government Accountability Office for inadequate oversight of its major IT projects.

To learn more:
- read the report
- check out the Bloomberg BNA article

Related Articles:
OIG official: 2013 work plan to focus on EHR-enabled fraud
OIG spokesman on hospital surveys: 'We're trying to be prospective'
'Hucksters' peddle fraudulent healthcare apps with little repercussion
GAO wants better oversight of HHS, VA IT projects