HHS' IG plans audits for some health IT programs

IG will look at IT system enhancements, breach notifications

The economic stimulus law is causing numerous new health information technology audits at the Health and Human Services Department, according to a new fiscal 2010 work plan released by HHS' Office of Inspector General.

Under the law, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will distribute about $30 billion in incentive payments to doctors and hospitals through 2016. Medicare will pay about $18 billion, and Medicaid around $12 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Those payments will go to providers that have purchased and demonstrated the so-called "meaningful use" of certified electronic health record systems.

Oversight of those payments, implementation of IT system modifications to manage those payments, reviews of frauds and errors related to those payments, and audits of breach notification requirements are among the areas for IT-related audits to be started in fiscal 2010 as a result of the stimulus law, the work plan states. The plan was made available recently on the HHS IG's Web site recently.

The IG intends to review CMS’ oversight and program management and the procedures to prevent duplicative and fraudulent incentive payments and CMS’ compliance with the law’s new breach notification requirements for personally identifiable information and medical identity theft.

According to the work plan, CMS will need to install enhancements to its IT systems to ensure that they meet the requirements of the stimulus law and meaningful use and that they have adequate security controls in place. CMS said in a planning document released in May that it may spend up to $905 million on such support systems.

“CMS systems require modification to manage these new requirements,” the work plan stated. In addition, the IG's office will examine enhancements to IT systems used by Medicare and Medicare Part D contractors to ensure that adequate security controls are in place. “CMS contractor systems require modification to work with these new requirements,” the plan stated.

Other stimulus law programs under review include the Health Resources and Service Administration’s award of $50 million to 74 health center networks to implement digital health records.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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