Electronic Medical Records May Be Raising Costs

Critics says it's simple for doctors, hospitals to overcharge Medicare now
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 22, 2012 6:13 AM CDT
Medicare costs are rising with the advance of electronic records.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Electronic medical records are supposed to make things better, right? The idea is to make billing and care more efficient, which should reduce costs, too. Except, the New York Times reports that Medicare has been shelling out substantially more money to hospitals in recent years, thanks in part to the new records. One apparent reason: It's a lot easier to cheat. Doctors can check a few extra boxes here and there, or cut and paste the same exam findings and use them for multiple patients. The latter practice even has a nickname: cloning.

“It’s like doping and bicycling,” says one doctor who led federal panels that looked into such fraud. "Everybody knows it’s going on.” The pattern seems clear: When hospitals start using the e-records, their emergency room billing magically increases. Whistleblowers have chalked it up to the aggressive "upcoding," and the federal Office of Inspector General is investigating, says the Times. (Read more Medicare stories.)

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