On Jan. 27, the Department of Justice announced the Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology developer is paying $145 million to settle allegations that Practice Fusion extracted unlawful kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies in exchange for implementing clinical decision support (CDS) alerts in its EHR software designed to increase prescriptions for their drug products.
The CDS alerts that Practice Fusion agreed to implement did not always reflect accepted medical standards. In discussions with pharmaceutical companies, Practice Fusion touted the anticipated financial benefit to the pharmaceutical companies from increased sales of pharmaceutical products that would result from the CDS alerts. Between 2014 and 2019, health care providers using Practice Fusion’s EHR software wrote numerous prescriptions after receiving CDS alerts that pharmaceutical companies participated in designing.
In addition to the kickback allegations, the civil settlement with the United States resolves allegations relating to two intersecting Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) programs, one at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) that regulates the voluntary health IT certification program, and one at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that oversees EHR incentive programs. Specifically, the United States alleged that Practice Fusion falsely obtained ONC certification for several versions of its EHR software by concealing from its certifying entity, known as an ONC-Authorized Certification Body, that the EHR software did not comply with all of the applicable requirements for certification.
The criminal Information charges Practice Fusion with two felony counts for violating the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b(b)(1), and for conspiring with its opioid company client to violate the AKS, 18 U.S.C. § 371. This case is the first ever criminal action against an EHR vendor, and the unique Deferred Prosecution Agreement imposes stringent requirements on Practice Fusion to ensure acceptance of responsibility and transparency as to its underlying conduct, and to invest heavily in compliance overhauls and an independent oversight organization
Click here to read details about this case from the DOJ.