Electronic Medical Records and Federal Criminal Prosecution
Posted On May 15, 2017
Electronic medical records (or “EMR”) were supposed to be a boon to the provision of healthcare.
As two Boston-area physicians point out, EMR are anything but a benefit:
Electronic medical records, or EMRs, were supposed to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of health care, and provide instant access to vital patient information.
Instead, EMRs have become the bane of doctors and nurses everywhere. They are the medical equivalent of texting while driving, sucking the soul out of the practice of medicine while failing to improve care.
The additional problem for healthcare professionals is that EMR systems often auto-populate fields from the last patient visit (or even from the first patient visit). In busy clinical practices, such systems can create technically inaccurate records that do not diminish patient care but, three years later and blown up on a courtroom monitor, can be used by the Government in a criminal prosecution under a “medical necessity” theory under Medicare or a prescription-based “not for a legitimate medical purpose” theory under the Controlled Substances Act. (A physician may legally “dispense” controlled substances but, if he or she does so without a legitimate medical purpose or not in the usual course of his professional practice, he or she may be criminally prosecuted under the CSA.)
Physicians continue to face two critical questions in the uncertain case law under the federal Controlled Substances Act. First, what conduct is prohibited? Second, what intent must the physician be shown to possess in order to support a conviction? Given the government’s increasingly aggressive prosecution of physicians with regard to controlled substances, white-collar practitioners who represent a physician or other healthcare professional in a “pill mill” case understand and address these issues in pretrial briefing and in preparing their trial strategy and must do so early.