eClinicalWorks is due to pay $155 million to settle a claim alleging that the company violated the False Claims Act, as announced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on May 31. Repercussions have been felt far and wide according to a Reaction Data survey conducted by Research Cloud. The scandal has raised red flags for the whole industry, with the government now exploring reexamination of the whole system amidst growing suspicion of other offenders.
The company was accused of withholding information, including the fact that its software was not conducive to the criteria specified for certain standardized drug codes. Electronic Health Record (EHR) vendors are required to meet conditions under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s HITECH Act, which specifies certain criteria to allow for reimbursement according to the meaningful use program. The DOJ claimed that eClinicalWorks falsely
obtained its certification by providing inaccurate information to its certifier.
The DOJ asserted that eClinicalWorks failed in several areas including:
Opting to add 16 drug codes to its software rather than enabling access from a complete database
Inability to accurately record user actions with audit log functionality
Inaccurately recording diagnostic imaging orders and drug-drug interaction checks
Failing to satisfy the requirements for data portability to allow doctors to transfer data to other EHR systems
eClinicalWorks has claimed that they settled the dispute to avoid litigation costs and are not prepared to accept that their customer program was unlawful. However, those that have heard about the dispute are now much more apprehensive when choosing an EHR provider.
The survey conducted by Research Cloud gathered information regarding providers’ awareness of the settlement, its impact on current eClinicalWorks customers, the likelihood of recommending eClinicalWorks to a peer or colleague before and after the settlement, as well as other factors.
The survey reveals that approximately 35% of healthcare professionals are now more suspicious of all EHR vendors
after learning about the scandal. This is a very unfortunate situation as the actions of a few are now negatively affecting the whole market. It also reveals that 41% of eClinicalWorks’ current customers were not aware of the scandal at all, with only 14% following the news regularly at that time. Non-customers were even more uninformed as 61% reportedly were unaware of the scandal; only 4% had been following it closely.
What did customers say regarding their future relationships with eClinicalWorks? 48% of customers said that they would reevaluate upon the completion of their contracts, and 22% said this occurrence did not affect their relationship. Only 15% claimed that they would be sticking with eClinicalWorks, 11% planned to switch to a new vendor once their contracts end, and 4% wanted to terminate their contracts early.
The survey found that 71% of non-customers said that they were unlikely to consider eClinicalWorks in the future, 27% had lost some level of confidence in their current EHR vendors. This is obviously bad news for the EHR industry, specifically for vendors who have gone to great lengths to build strong reputations and ensure favorable relationships with their clients.
This illustrates how important it is for EHR vendors to operate with integrity, transparency, and adhere to the highest ethical standards as contrary behavior affects the whole market.