The Department of Justice recently announced that Athenahealth, Inc. (Athena), an electronic health record (“EHR”) vendor, has agreed to pay $18.25 million to settle claims that it violated the False Claims Act (“FCA”). Athena allegedly implemented various marketing programs involving the payment of illegal kickbacks that were designed to boost sales of the company’s EHR product. 

Three different, illegal marketing schemes are detailed in a complaint filed by the DOJ in connection with the settlement announcement. 

  • “Concierge Events” – The DOJ alleges that Athena invited current and prospective customers to all-expense-paid sporting and entertainment events, including the Masters golf tournament, the Kentucky Derby, the Indy 500, and New York Fashion Week. Specifically, Athena targeted individuals who were in a position to influence or make decisions regarding the selection of an EHR vendor. 
  • “Client Lead Generation” – From January 2014 to September 2020, Athena allegedly offered and made payments to existing clients for new client referrals. The amount of the payment was calculated based on the volume of business that was referred but could be as much as $3,000 per physician that signed up for one of Athena’s services. 
  • “Conversion Deals” – Athena allegedly paid money to competitors who were terminating their EHR offerings to recommend that their users convert to Athena’s products. Pursuant to these agreements, Athena paid its competitors based on the volume of practices that were successfully converted to Athena customers. 

The settlement highlights the DOJ’s continued focus of holding EHR companies accountable for the payment of unlawful kickbacks. According to Brian Boynton, Acting Attorney General for the Civil Division, “EHR technology plays an important role in the provision of medical care, and it is critical that the selection of an EHR platform be made without the influence of improper financial inducements. 

The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with False Claims Act investigations and qui tam litigation.  If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.