August 3, 2006—Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt announced Tuesday final regulations to support physician adoption of electronic prescribing and electronic health records technology.

The final regulations, displayed by both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG), create new exceptions and safe harbors to physician self-referral and anti-kickback laws such that provision of health information technology is exempt from regulation. CMS’ regulations establish conditions under which entities furnishing designated health services may donate interoperable electronic health records software, IT, and training services to physicians; the regulations also allow hospitals to provide physicians with hardware, software, or IT and training services necessary (and used solely) for electronic prescribing.

OIG’s regulations are similar, but predicated on several conditions, including a cost-sharing requirement under which recipients would pay 15% for electronic health records technology items and services. Corresponding with the President’s goal of nationwide electronic health record adoption by 2014, the exceptions and safe harbors will sunset on Dec. 31, 2013.

“Electronic health records help doctors provide higher quality patient care, improved efficiency and with less hassle,” Leavitt said. “By removing barriers, these regulation changes will help physicians get these systems in place and working for patients faster.”

To download a PDF of the new rule, please visit the OIG’s Web site.

—Cat Vasko