IRS allows hospitals to assist docs in obtaining EHRs

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Friday issued a two-page memorandum to hospitals declaring that the facilities can now provide financial assistance to doctors seeking to adopt electronic health records (EHRs) without losing tax-exempt status. The move is expected to be a boon to the healthcare industry’s efforts to increase the use of EHR systems.

In making the announcement, the IRS said it will adhere to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) EHR regulations – issued August of last year – that state that hospitals donating EHRs within certain restrictions are not in violation of federally established anti-kickback or physician self-referral laws.

“We will not treat the benefits a hospital provides to its medical staff physicians as impermissible private benefit or inurement in violation of section 501(c)(3) of the [IRS] Code if the benefits fall within the range of health IT items and services that are permissible under the HHS EHR Regulations,” HHS said in the memo.

However, hospitals must operate under certain guidelines, as follows: Health IT Subsidy Arrangements require both the hospitals and physicians to comply with HHS rules in an ongoing fashion; hospitals may access all of the electronic patient records created by a physician’s office using the technology it subsidized; hospitals must ensure that all subsidized technologies are accessible to all medical staff physicians; and that the same level of subsidy is provided to all staff physicians.