OIG Provides Guidance Regarding Provision of Electronic Interface to Physicians
The provision of free access to an electronic interface designed to transmit orders to and from a hospital by physicians was the subject of OIG Advisory Opinion 12-20. Under the facts reviewed in the Advisory Opinion, the hospital would provide free access to an electronic interface to community physicians and physician practices. The physicians could use the interface to transmit to the hospital orders for laboratory and diagnostic services to be performed by the hospital and could also receive the results of these services. The hospital would provide the support services necessary to maintain the interface, including software updates. Physicians who chose to participate would remain responsible for all aspects of their own electronic health records system, including all necessary hardware and connectivity services that would allow them to communicate with the hospital through the interface. The hospital certified that the interface would serve no purpose other than to transmit the orders and results.
The OIG found that the proposed arrangement would not implicate the antikickback statute. The OIG found that the hospital would provide free access to the interface to all physicians who requested it; would provide support services necessary to maintain the interface; would limit use of the interface only for the purpose of transmitting orders for laboratory and diagnostic services to and from the hospital and for receiving test results; and would provide services that are integrally related to the hospital’s services. The free access would have no independent value to the physicians apart from the electronic interface services that the hospital provided.
In approving the provision of the electronic interface to physicians, the OIG acknowledged the importance of facilitating electronic communications between hospitals and physician practices in the community. We will undoubtedly see the OIG review additional factual scenarios in the future that address the changing nature of the relationship between hospitals and physicians.