With over 100 electronic health records (EHRs) on the market, health providers certainly have their choice when it comes to this new method of recording patient information. However, just because these products are available, does not mean they are safe to use. Even if providers do everything right on their end, if the EHR company makes a mistake, all your patients’ information could be at risk.
Is it safe to put trust in these systems? While the government has been providing bonus payments to providers that making meaningful use of use EHRs for Medicare and Medicaid patients, that doesn’t mean just any EHR system will do. In fact, the systems have to adhere to strict technical standards before they can be used.
Unfortunately, one EHR company known as eClinicalWorks did not. It’s now facing a $1 billion lawsuit because of errors with the program.
How eClinicalWorks Did Not Comply with EHR Regulations
EClinicalWorks is being sued by the estate of Stjepan Tot, a man who died of cancer. The family is arguing that the EHR did not have an accurate account of his medical history, delaying the eventual diagnosis of his cancer.
Even worse, the suit claims that eClinicalWorks uses software that doesn’t comply with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s requirements.
If correct, the implications could be huge. Over 850,000 providers use eClinicalWorks, meaning that all of their millions of patients will have had their sensitive data compromised.
Previous Problems with eClinicalWorks
This isn’t the first time that eClinicalWorks has been facing legal trouble. Earlier this year, the company had to pay up $155 million in a settlement. They were charged with falsifying data to show that providers were meeting meaningful use certification when they really weren’t.
Unlike the current lawsuit, which is a private citizen making claims, this charge was brought about by the Department of Justice. It was the first time they made a move to attack an EHR company for failing to comply with certification requirements.
However, it’s likely that eClinicalWorks isn’t the only company making these errors. Across the board, many other EHR systems may be cutting corners and taking liberties with the certification process.
What This Means for Healthcare Providers
While no doctors are being named in this suit, it doesn’t mean they aren’t technically in trouble. Using a system that doesn’t comply with national requirements is their fault. EClinicalWorks is the major player here, so they are the ones suffering most of the blame. However, the estate of Tot could just have easily gone after the individual healthcare providers involved in his case.
EClinicalWorks has enough capital to make huge payouts and not even miss a step. But an individual practice? This kind of lawsuit is probably enough to cause them to close up for good.
These types of EHR systems open practices up to HIPAA violations as well as disorganization. There’s no common standard for EHR systems, meaning that each one has its own interface and data collection systems. If a provider ever needs to share health information with another provider or decides to switch to a new system, all of this information may need to be manually reentered, leading to data entry errors and lost information.
At the end of the day, it’s better for practices to avoid using EHR systems until there is a better certification and regulation process.
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