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Vulnerabilities in electronic health records systems are creating opportunities for fraud among healthcare providers and contractors working to achieve Meaningful Use attestation, says the Office of Inspector General.

With CMS spending at least $18.8 billion through December on Meaningful Use electronic health record projects, a pair of recent critical inspector general reports and a federal fraud case filed last week in Texas are raising alarm about the healthcare IT reform effort.

In a US grand jury indictment filed Jan. 22, Joe White, former CFO of a now defunct rural hospital chain in Texas including Shelby Hospital, was charged with bilking nearly $800,000 from the EHR incentive program for Medicare. White is accused of falsely attesting to compliance with the first stage of Meaningful Use, which requires hospitals to meet 18 of a possible 23 EHR objectives, including 13 core objectives.

In addition to the false attestation charge, White is accused of aggravated identity theft for allegedly forging a colleague's identifying information on Meaningful Use attestation documents. The former financial officer faces as many as five years in prison on the attestation charge, two years in prison on the identity theft charge and fines totaling $500,000.

According to the grand jury indictment, EHR contractors and others were allegedly directed to enter information from paper records into Shelby Hospital's EHR to help satisfy the requirements for stage one of Meaningful Use.

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