The Obama administration is forging ahead with a multi-billion dollar plan to shift from paper to electronic medical records, despite continuing concerns the program may be prompting some doctors and hospitals to improperly bill higher fees to Medicare. An investigation into those billing questions -- which convened a hearing Wednesday -- has yet to produce much in the way of results, and critics are questioning the seriousness of the efforts.
Some digital records software marketed to medical professionals may be encouraging use of elevated billing codes that pay fatter fees, according to the nation's top health information technology official. That could undermine cost savings the government expects to achieve by adopting the digital systems.
"There is a lot we don't know about that," Farzad Mostashari, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, said Wednesday at a hearing of policy experts studying the billing issue. "We don't know if the shift (in higher billing) reflects appropriate coding or inappropriate coding." He added: "We don't know if this leads to an increase in costs ... or has other impacts."