... these stipulations [hold harmless and gag clauses in contracts] further instantiate my observation that health IT lacks the rigor of medical science itself, its major Achilles heel.
Dr Silverstein's letter adds context to our Commentary on HIT vendors' self-protective "hold harmless" clauses while introducing an important discussion about hospitals' and vendors' possible violations of Joint Commission standards. We agree with Silverstein about the misapplication of the standard business software contracting model.
The AMIA response piece concluded:
"While we support increased transparency around error disclosure, the belief that the best approach to increase the safety and effectiveness of EHR systems is by legal regulation of system vendors is misplaced. Such an approach would stifle innovation and not achieve the desired goals. At a minimum equal attention needs to be given to the role that provider organizations bring to configuration, management and oversight of the software and related processes."
July 23 addendum:
Dr. Koppel has forwarded to me a letter he and Mr. Kreda submitted to AMIA in response to AMIA's aforementioned critique of his March 2009 JAMA "Hold Harmless Clause" article. Koppel and Kreda's letter, "On the AMIA Response to Commentary in JAMA by Ross Koppel and David Kreda" can be read here (MS Word .doc format).
Read the whole thing at the link above. (I placed Koppel and Kreda's response to AMIA on my faculty server. The response, to the best of my knowledge, was not published by AMIA itself.)
... Where the AMIA authors disagree with us is the emphasis placed on errors produced in the coupling. [The coupling of healthcare organization and software, i.e., alterations and customizations beyond the control of the software vendor - ed.] We say a vast number or errors are generated in the marriage. But they say we have essentially ignored how many errors are created by doctors and hospitals seeking to consummate their relationship with HIT systems in situ ...
... A brief recap of our JAMA commentary seems in order. We wrote about: (1) the HIT vendor “non-disclosure” clauses that prevent clinicians from sharing information about errors generated from faulty software; (2) the clauses that remove all vendor responsibility for errors in their systems – and place all responsibility on clinicians and hospitals (the “hold harmless/learned intermediary” clauses); (3) the need to protect vendors from responsibilities for errors introduced when hospitals implement HIT or when untrained or incompetent clinicians use the HIT; and (4) the need for more balanced contracts that are fair to clinicians and hospitals ...
... Given that we addressed the non-software issues we are said to have ignored, we are not sure why our JAMA commentary earned the response it received on official AMIA letterhead. We hope, therefore that this letter can further a longer conversation about the many ways to make clinical IT software and its implementation better. Nonetheless, we stand by our statement that the imbalance in incentives we described in our JAMA Commentary is a structural obstacle that on balance hurts improving the clinical part of clinical IT.