My partner Elizabeth Litten and I were interviewed by Marla Durben Hirsch for her Medical Practice Compliance Alert article “HIPAA, ICD-10 Among 6 Compliance Trends That Will Affect You in 2014.” While the full text can be found in the January 6, 2014 issue of Medical Practice Compliance Alert, a synopsis is noted below. As we have earlier stated, it is always a pleasure for us to talk with Marla because she provokes our thinking in new areas.   We look forward to the opportunity of further encounter sessions with her.

The article discussed the fact that medical practices will face several compliance challenges in 2014. We expressed the view that HIPAA enforcement activities and litigation will increase because the Office for Civil Rights has stated that it will aggressively enforce HIPAA, especially since the rule implementing much of the HITECH Act went into effect September 23, 2013. This increase in enforcement coincides with the jump in mobile device use, electronic health record adoption and online scheduling, which will cause digital protected health information (PHI) to be less secure since providers may have less control over it.

Complying with HIPAA requirements can be expected to be used increasingly as a “best practice” in state courts, and patients are winning damages. The article states that “People [will] learn that they can sue [for privacy and security breaches]. This area is growing.”

We also believe that whistleblower activity will increase.  The article points out, “[Former National Security Agency contractor Edward] Snowden will encourage people to whistle blow. A trusted consultant can have an employee that decides whistleblowing is the right thing as a matter of public policy,”  

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will create billing compliance difficulties.  Elizabeth warned, “The ACA loophole that allows for unpaid care for health exchange patients gives patients a three-month grace period before the insurance policy is canceled. It is still unclear when and how practices can bill patients directly once insurers determine the patients are no longer covered, putting practices at risk of not only revenue loss but violating debt-collection practice.”

Finally, the article observed that meaningful use audits respecting initiatives in electronic health records (EHR) will increase. The federal government has paid more than $1.7 billion in incentives regarding EHR to providers under the Medicare and Medicaid meaningful use program. The article concluded, “The government will start audits to get a lot of this money back.”