News Feature | May 20, 2013

Allscripts Lawsuit Serves As Warning To Physicians

Source: Health IT Outcomes
John Oncea

By John Oncea, Digital Editorial Director
Follow Me On Twitter @buck25

Electronic Health Records

The lawsuit filed by four physician practices against Allscripts should serve as a warning to be diligent when making electronic health record (EHR) decisions.

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In what is believed to be a first-of-its-kind case, two Miami class action plaintiff firms – Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph, PL and Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton – have filed a class action lawsuit against Allscripts Healthcare Solutions. This lawsuit alleges Allscripts “misled its physician customers about the quality and functionality of MyWay” electronic health record (EHR) software which was sold to approximately 5,000 physicians across the nation from 2009 until Allscripts withdrew it from the market at the end of 2012. The cost of the software, according to the law firm’s website was “approximately $40,000 per physician to implement.”

The lawsuit asserts, “The product never worked well and, after four years, in the face of mounting complaints and market pressures to resolve the issues and provide refunds, Allscripts “sunsetted” the product.  Rather than ensure that MyWay met its customers’ needs, Allscripts made the decision to unilaterally “upgrade” its customers to another – and more expensive – software named Professional Suite Electronic Health Record System (“EHR Pro”). The “free upgrade” was anything but free. Unlike MyWay, EHR Pro was not developed for small physician groups, is more complicated and more expensive to maintain, and requires more complex integration and staff training. Simply put, it is not the product that Allscripts’ physician customers bargained for or wanted for their electronic health record technology.”

Sam Narisi, writing for Healthcare Business and Technology, singles out three more complaints leveled against Allscripts:

  • the system failed to meet the federal requirements for EHR incentives, despite the company claiming that it would
  • even after thousands of dollars and dozens of hours spent on the implementation and training, the system still didn’t work properly
  • installing the system led to a significant drop in revenue for the practices

The specific case of lawsuit participant Robert Joseph, MD, is detailed by Alicia Gallegos of American Medical News, who writes, “But $40,000 and dozens of training hours later, the program has created headaches for Dr. Joseph's practice, he said. He claims that the system never worked effectively and failed to meet the federal regulatory requirements promised by Allscripts.”

Gallegos also quotes Ronald Sterling, president of Sterling Solutions Ltd., a medical practice consulting company based in Silver Spring, MD, as saying, “The cases against Allscripts could encourage more litigation against EHR vendors as physicians become increasingly dissatisfied with the systems they are sold.”

Medscape also offers an assessment of the historic lawsuit, including the most recent development “that the defendant's motion to block the lawsuit and compel them to accept binding arbitration was overruled by a judge in Miami.”

Ironically, while physicians are initiating the lawsuit against Allscripts, the University of Illinois at Chicago reports physicians themselves could be defendants in an increasing number of EHR-related lawsuits in the future. The University’s story, citing a report conducted by healthcare IT research firm AC Group, notes, “The speed and widespread adoption of clinical informatics systems and electronic health records (EHRs) could result in increasing numbers of lawsuits against physicians.”

The AC Group’s report indicates, “A review of 65 EHRs showed that more than 90% of them did not provide adequate medico-legal training and 95% of them had specific medico-legal issues. Either could increase the potential risk of a liability claim and would hamper its defense. The EHR vendor community should strongly consider external reviews of their software for potential medico-legal issues that may have been missed by internal reviews due to employee familiarity with the process and the product.”

The AC Group report, co-authored by Mark Anderson, chief executive officer of the AC Group, and Dr. Larry Ozeran, concludes, “As healthcare organizations and individual physician practices invest in and adopt EHRs, it is critical that medico-legal issues and risks be identified and discussed openly.”

According to Marisa Torrieri of Physicians Practice, the Allscripts lawsuit – as well as reports of EHR dissatisfactionshould teach physicians a powerful lesson. Quoting Jim Tate, president of EMR Advocate, Torrieri writes “there is no safety in going with a ‘big name’ vendor that has grown by buying up other EHRs.” She also passes on these four guidelines from Health IT consultant Bruce Kleaveland that he feels physicians should practice when choosing an EHR:

  • carefully vet vendors through a formal organized process
  • reference check with trusted colleagues or local sources whenever possible
  • organize the practice leadership and staff to manage the implementation of the EHR
  • select low-risk vendors, or those with a strong local installed base, extended track record of success and sustainability, and a focused product strategy