Final health IT adoption regulations announced by HHS
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt Wednesday announced final regulations that will support physician adoption of electronic prescribing and electronic health records technology.

"Electronic health records help doctors provide higher quality patient care, improved efficiency and with less hassle," Leavitt said. "By removing barriers, these regulation changes will help physicians get these systems in place and working for patients faster."

The final rules from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) create new exceptions and ‘safe harbors’ for two federal fraud and abuse laws regarding the donation of health IT and services.

The CMS rule makes exceptions to the physician self-referral law involving the donation of electronic health records technology and will protect the provision of software or information technology and training services necessary for the use of EHRs.

The OIG rule establishes two new safe harbors under the federal anti-kickback statute. Arrangements involving the provision of items and services that meet the requirements of the safe harbors are exempt from enforcement action under the federal anti-kickback statute related to electronic prescribing as well as EHR systems. The safe harbor covers a broad number of providers, suppliers, practitioners and health plans when they provide EHR technology to physicians and other providers.

The scope of donors and recipients under the final rules is considerably broader than was originally proposed in the fall of 2005. Donations protected under the exception may be made to any physician by entities furnishing DHS (designated health services).

Additionally, the final rules involving the donation of EHR technology include a cost-sharing requirement. Recipients are required to pay 15 percent of the cost of the electronic health records technology items and services.