Wednesday, July 24, 2013

EHR importance vastly oversold? Community health center battles for electronic patients' records - but patient care goes on anyway

There are two lessons from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story below.

1) Beware outsourcing the ownership of your hospital or clinic's medical records.

2) The value of EHRs has been massively and repeatedly exaggerated.  Milwaukee Health Services have been operating without access to electronic patient charts for almost a month, yet there are no reports of massive casualties.  There are numerous reports on this blog of EHR system downtimes lasting weeks, loss and sabotage of electronic records, and other mishaps, yet patient care is claimed to have not been compromised.  Perhaps those who make such claims need to be taken at face value.

It follows that expenditures of hundreds of billions of dollars for EHR systems is simply unnecessary and the technology's importance vastly oversold.

Excerpts are below; read the full story at the hyperlink.

-- SS

Community health center battles for patients' records
By Guy Boulton of the Journal Sentinel
July 20, 2013

Doctors at Milwaukee Health Services have not had access to the medical records of 40,000 patients since June 30, when an Atlanta company cut off the community health center's access to its electronic medical records after their contract ended.

Milwaukee Health Services sued Business Computer Applications Inc., the Atlanta company, last week in federal court and is seeking a court order to restore access to patients' medical records.

The records include patients' medications, problem lists, allergies, immunization records, treatment plans and other clinical information.

The doctors and other health care providers at the community health center can get key information, such as medication lists and lab results, from pharmacies and other sources, said Tito Izard, a physician and chief executive of Milwaukee Health Services.

But access to patients' medical records is "obviously important," Izard said.

Milwaukee Health Services sought a court order last week to require Business Computer Applications, known as BCA, to restore access to the medical records, contending that the safety of patients was at serious risk.

The court denied the request for a temporary restraining order.

... Milwaukee Health Services, which provides care to about 30,000 people a year and has medical records for about 40,000 people, entered into a five-year agreement with BCA on July 1, 2008.

The community health center contends that BCA's system was not fully functional after paying the company $3.1 million over the past five years.

"There was a never-ending request for more money to fix the system," Izard said.

... In its complaint, Milwaukee Health Services alleges BCA violated the Wisconsin law that requires health care records to be released upon the request of a health care provider in the care of patients.

The community health center plans to seek a court order in the next several weeks that requires BCA to provide access to the medical records of its patients.

More here:  Looks like the patients affected are predominantly poor and/or minorities:

... A computer firm is "jeopardizing the health and safety of about 40,000 people" - many of them uninsured or underinsured - by freezing a hospital out of access to its own medical records because of a billing dispute, the hospital claims in court ...  Milwaukee Health Services Inc. "specializ(es) in the care of underserved populations," the hospital says in its complaint. It says it "serves everyone regardless of income or third party coverage."

-- SS


Anonymous said...

The only reason why the majority of the medical practices and clinics are buying these unproven EHRs is because of Congressional coercion with financial penalty and incentive, and in order to capture more charges.

They are of no proven clinical benefit.

Steve Lucas said...

Another issue that will start to become more prevalent is a few years ago doctors sold their practices and received large salaries to stay on and continue their service. Those contracts are nearing an end and the practice owners will be looking to “maximize income” by lowering salaries.

There will be a non-compete clause in those contracts and if the doctor leaves the practice the practice owns the patient and patient’s records.

The result will be the doctor will have to accept these new terms or pick up and move his family to another community and start all over again, not an exciting proposition.

Steve Lucas