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Survey: Following eClinicalWorks Settlement, Some Providers Losing Confidence in EHR Vendors

July 13, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Many of the vendor’s own customers were not aware of the settlement

In the wake of the recent eClinicalWorks $155 settlement with the Department of Justice, most healthcare professionals said they are extremely unlikely to consider partnering with the vendor in the future, and some, more broadly, are losing confidence in other EHR vendors, according to a recent survey.

The findings come from technology company Reaction Data, which polled 113 people, 81 percent of which were physicians. It should be noted that the survey sample included both customers and non-customers of the Westborough, Mass.-based EHR (electronic health record) vendor. Interestingly, more than half of the survey’s participants had no idea at all about settlement—including 41 percent of eClinicalWorks’ customers.

In late May, it was announced that eClinicalWorks, and some of its employees, will pay $155 million to resolve a False Claims Act lawsuit. The company allegedly violated federal law by misrepresenting the capabilities of its software and for allegedly paying kickbacks to certain customers in exchange for promoting its product, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). In a statement about the civil investigation settlement, eClinicalWorks stated that it would, in addition to paying $155 million, bolster its compliance program related to the development, operation and maintenance of its software.

What’s more, in its complaint-in-intervention, the federal government alleged that the vendor “falsely obtained that certification for its EHR software when it concealed from its certifying entity that its software did not comply with the requirements for certification.” The Justice Department alleged in its compliant that, as a result of the deficiencies in eClinicalWorks’ software, providers using eClinicalWorks’ software submitted false claims for federal incentive payments. Despite agreeing to the settlement, though, eClinicalWorks has not acknowledged any wrongdoing.

Of the vendor’s surveyed customers, 48 percent said they will finish out their contract with eClinicalWorks and then reevaluate their options; 22 percent said that the “scandal” does not impact their relationship with the vendor; 15 percent said that eClinicalWorks has been a good partner and they will stick with them; 11 percent said they will find a new vendor once the contract ends; and 4 percent said they plan on terminating the contract before the terms end.

Perhaps the most noteworthy findings of this survey are related to providers’ feelings about eClinicalWorks, and other EHR vendors, in the wake of the settlement. Seven in 10 (71 percent) said they are extremely unlikely to consider eClinicalWorks as a partner in the future, and 27 percent of respondents said that this news has decreased their confidence in their current vendor. And, 35 percent of respondents said they are now significantly more suspicious of other EHR vendors.

One respondent said, per the findings, “Now I wonder about our EHR. They have been certified but it does not seem to meet the requirements for stage 2 [meaningful use] nor can I ever meet with anyone to get the program changed to make it more compliant.” Another respondent noted, “While not admitting guilt overtly, it seems that a large settlement is an admission of something.”

eClinicalWorks said it disputed the DOJ's allegations, yet decided to settle to avoid the cost and uncertainty inherent in protracted litigation. “eCW has consistently maintained that it conducted testing of its software prior to release to ensure that it met applicable meaningful use program requirements, and that any certification issues were addressed in accordance with the administrative process established by the government. eCW’s software remains certified for use in connection with the meaningful use program,” the company said in a statement back in May.

Following news of the settlement, Healthcare Informatics dug deep into the industry to garner reactions on what the impact might be on the health IT market and what the settlement could mean for the future of patient safety and interoperability. Those pieces can be read here and here.

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