CHS made false meaningful use claims, whistleblowers say

Whistleblowers allege Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems submitted hundreds of millions of dollars in false claims to HHS for federal incentive payments through CMS' promoting interoperability program for EHRs, according to court documents unsealed March 14 in Miami.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges CHS filed false claims under the program, receiving more than $450 million in incentive payments between 2012 and 2015, according to the legal documents. The two plaintiffs are former CHS employees who worked for the health system from January 2009 to December 2016 and March 2012 to December 2016, respectively.

In a statement emailed to Becker's Hospital Review, CHS Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Tomi Galin said the health system found the allegations were "without merit," and CHS "has complete confidence that all of it's meaningful use attestations have been accurate."

"Despite insinuations to the contrary in the litigation, we are unaware of any instances of patient harm," Ms. Galin said. "As an organization, we are devoted to patient safety and have always prioritized the quality of care provided in our hospitals as our most important responsibility."

Under the promoting interoperability program, formerly referred to as the meaningful use program, CMS distributes incentive payments to healthcare providers that effectively install EHRs and use them to improve care coordination and patient engagement. The whistleblowers claim meaningful use attestations CHS filed were false, and the EHR system, Medhost, that CHS installed across numerous of its hospitals had "serious flaws," including a lack of safety and reliability when performing critical functions.

"Some of the defects in the software, including an inability to calculate weight-based dosing accurately, exposed patients to mistakes that were easily missed in institutional settings and potentially catastrophic," the lawsuit states. "The providers who relied on Medhost software often viewed it as an impediment to care, rather than an improvement."

Additional defects of Medhost's EHR software include its failure to flag medication allergies once the order is in the system, inability to lock open patient charts, and perform drug interaction checks on medications ordered when the patient is discharged, the plaintiffs alleged.

CHS physicians and hospital administrators became aware of the EHR software issues soon after it was installed in 2012, and various hospitals under CHS submitted reports. However, the health system proceeded to roll out Medhost's software at more hospitals, according to the report.

While implementing the Medhost EHR, Ms. Galin said CHS worked to address any issues "appropriately and promptly," and recruited third-party experts for EHR consultation.

In August 2018, CHS received a civil investigative demand related to the health system's EHR adoption and adherence to the promoting interoperability program. The demands are issued by federal and state authorities to collect records related to ongoing civil investigations, such as False Claims Act cases.

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