Feds let hospitals help docs get IT

August 11, 2006

New Stark reg/safe harbors announced

New Stark regs/safe harbors announced

For the past year, Uncle Sam has been tempting physicians with the possibility that hospitals might be allowed to pay for health information technology in doctors' offices.

On Aug. 1, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt announced Stark exceptions and safe harbors within the Anti-Kickback Act that will permit hospitals to help community physicians acquire EHR and e-prescribing systems.

Meanwhile, however, the House of Representatives on July 27 passed a health IT promotion bill that would essentially do the same thing.

There are two big differences: the HHS rule changes, unlike the bill, would require donated EHRs to be certified by the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, meaning that they'd eventually have to be interoperable; and under the HHS regs, but not the House measure, physicians would have to kick in at least 15 percent of the cost. Leavitt hopes that a House-Senate conference to reconcile health IT measures passed by the two chambers will adopt the HHS language.