Saturday, July 18, 2009

Irish Physicians Opt Out of Vital Patient Maintenance Care, Refuse to Release Records; Court Agrees

Well, no, actually. Irish physicians did not opt out of "maintaining" the healthcare of patients and refuse to release their medical records. Even imagining such an event is absurd.

IT providers in Ireland did, however, opt out of caring for the HIT of 180+ hospitals and releasing the source code so others could do it:

HSE fails in bid to secure IT servicing for 180 hospitals

By Tim Healy

Thursday July 16 2009

The HSE [Health Service Executive - ed.] has failed to get a High Court order compelling a company to continue providing vital computer maintenance services for 180 hospital and other sites around the country.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy also refused to grant an injunction requiring the company, Eamon Keogh, trading as Keogh Software, Harold's Cross, Dublin, to temporarily release source codes necessary for someone else to maintain and fix the computer system's software.

[In other words, traditional business computing customs of source code secrecy even in face of software orphancy shall apply - quite inappropriately - to healthcare, and providers and patients be damned. - ed.]

The system is used by A&Es, radiology departments, HSE billing services as well as in environmental health areas and "parliamentary affairs" of the HSE.

Keogh Software, which laid off all its staff providing the service on May 29, undertook to maintain the service until yesterday's judgment.

The HSE had sought an injunction requiring it to continue to provide the service pending full court proceedings.

Ms Justice Laffoy ruled that the issue of the release of the software source codes should be dealt with under an independent resolution procedure set up to deal with this eventuality.

[By that time, the hospitals will have been forced to return to manual methods and then replace the systems, or run the risk of chaos and patient harm from defective software, assuming it functions at all - ed.]

The judge also turned down a cross-application from Mr Keogh for an injunction requiring the HSE to pay for work done under a new fee agreement entered into by the parties on April 3 last.

She also dismissed his application for an injunction waiving a HSE requirement that he produce a tax clearance certificate prior to payments being made.

When the High Court heard applications from both sides last month for their respective injunctions, the judge was told the dispute was precipitated when operational problems were experienced in Naas Hospital's radiology information system [not an unimportant system - ed.]

The HSE claimed Mr Keogh failed to respond properly to these while he (Keogh) claimed they were denied access to the system by the HSE [vendor denied access to malfunctioning RIS software needing remediation? I simply find that hard to believe - ed.]

- Tim Healy

One wonders who will be held accountable if this unremediated, defective software results in patient harm or death. (I, however, doubt it will be the IT vendor.)

Thus are the dangers of hospitals becoming dependent on an IT industry privileged and accomodated to the point of having no accountability (as in the U.S. as detailed by Koppel and Kreda in JAMA here). Thus are also the dangers of hospitals becoming dependent on proprietary HIT, and/or not having the expertise nor the source code required to fix bugs and perform maintenance themselves.

I add that nearly our entire country is about to go that route.

But at least the software will be "certified" by the fierce watchdog group and safety advocate, the CCHIT.

Fierce to its critics and to its own organizational safety, that is (HIMSS, CCHIT's parent organization, is currently seeking to have CCHIT declared the monolithic force for HIT 'certification' in the United States).

-- SS


Anonymous said...

So there is a cover up of defects that cause injury and death, and now there is a patient and doctor be damned legal defense of the vendor's source code. Those being coerced to enter the cesspool of CCHIT certified vendor-IT should be aware of the odor.

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight, we have health-care software which needs to be maintained, and a judge has just decided, instead of the vendor being compelled to release source code, to send them all off to another arbitration process. Lets just home it get s sorted quick.