Apple Leads Big-Name Tech Charge Focusing on Health Data

Apple’s $921 billion market valuation, perched atop the Fortune 500, reflects investors’ belief that the company’s relentless growth should continue in coming years. And an iPhone-based health record product, a test version of which Apple released in late January, could be a pivotal part of the expected progression.

“We view the future as consumers owning their own health data,” Apple COO Jeff Williams told CNBC.

The new Health Records section, accessible from the iPhone’s Health app, lets users stream in encrypted data (e.g., allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vital signs) from leading EHR systems. The idea empowers consumers to share passcode-protected data on-demand with their primary care doctor or hospital personnel.

As of March, nearly 40 U.S. hospitals had signed on to participate in Apple’s Health Records project.

Industry Reaction

David Harlow, who heads a healthcare law and consulting practice, pointed out the long-term promise inherent in Apple’s initiative: allowing more people than ever before to access their own health data more easily. If the pilot succeeds, he added, healthcare systems of all sizes across the country would be able to connect their respective EHRs to the Apple conduit.

Indeed, among a dozen Health Records beta sites interviewed by research firm KLAS Enterprises, all recognized the product’s potential to facilitate patient-provider interaction and help consumers improve care self-management. Patient record portability should be possible soon, according to 59 percent of beta testers, with associated benefits (giving patients access to their data, using the data to engage patients, and integrating data into patient care) expected within six months.

At the same time, however, Harlow cautioned that Apple faces several short-term challenges:

  1. Health Records is currently limited to personal health record data, not the full scope of EHR data.
  2. iPhone users account for only 15 percent of the overall smartphone market (although physician iPhone usage hovers around 75 percent).
  3. The pilot’s relatively small size limits demonstration of data integration from multiple provider organizations.
  4. Data flows only in one direction — from provider to patient.

Harlow concluded that it’s not yet possible to predict whether Health Records will become ubiquitous, although consumer advocates like Apple’s approach to handling end-user data. (It stays on the phone and Apple won’t be mining it for other purposes.)

Nonetheless, a practical consideration — some patients have to pay their provider more than $500 for a single medical records request, while others encounter an annual subscription fee, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report — could disrupt emerging data-sharing models. In this environment, Apple has gotten a head start on allowing patients to own and control their health data, even across disparate systems.

Integration in the Healthcare Ecosystem

NetDirector views these developments in a positive light as they relate to integration advances across healthcare. If Health Records and similar projects take flight, cloud-based platforms such as NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange will assist with streamlined adoption and implementation. The net result will be the ability for healthcare stakeholders to quickly and accurately put in place patient-centric services.

For more information on HealthData Exchange, please contact us or request a free demo.

Technologies That Impressed at HIMSS18

Last month in larger-than-life Las Vegas, nearly 50,000 healthcare IT professionals and vendors convened for HIMSS18, the industry’s yearly focal point. Attendees sought common ground in improving care and business operations through the use of technology.

Reports from the conference yielded a wealth of new information from more than 1,000 exhibitors and scores of expert presenters. And — indicative of a setting where anything could happen — Jared Kushner and Magic Johnson stopped by to share their respective insights on better access to patient data and health, leadership and community-building.

But at the heart of the event, discussion of challenges and pursuit of new ideas revealed common themes among those serving at healthcare organizations and their counterparts on the developer side. The infographic below summarizes key aspects of health IT’s ongoing quest to support better patient outcomes in a fiscally sustainable ecosystem.

 

 

NetDirector’s cloud-based HealthData Exchange addresses these points of emphasis through low-cost, high-speed, secure data and document sharing capabilities among hospitals, physician practices, nursing facilities, pharmacies, labs, imaging centers, vendors, government agencies and insurance providers. The format- and transport-agnostic technology eliminates the need to maintain multiple interfaces while ensuring data consistency and integrity.

For more information on the HealthData Exchange platform, please contact us or request a free demo.

Disruptive Technologies Make Their Mark for Healthcare Providers

Despite uncertainty about national healthcare policy, investors continue to fuel the red-hot health technology sector, which leverages innovation in the quest to improve outcomes, streamline care and cut costs.

Digital health startup firms banked $23 billion in venture funding over the past seven years, according to analysis from Rock Health. In 2017 alone, digital health investments hit an all-time high approaching $6 billion, with a record number of “mega-deals” (each exceeding $100 million) coming to fruition. Repeat investments also reached a peak last year, indicating confidence in future growth.

Rock Health’s research reveals the top value propositions funded during 2017:

  • Consumer health information (investments of $1.6 billion) — Empowering individuals to better understand their own health and the overall healthcare system.
  • Clinical decision support and precision medicine ($811 million) — Delivering timely information to providers to help inform care decisions and/or tailor the prevention, management or treatment of disease.
  • Fitness and wellness ($752 million) — General health maintenance and promotion, where illness prevention does not associate with a diagnostic billing code.
  • Disease monitoring ($517 million) — Using biometric devices to track specific clinical conditions.
  • Disease diagnosis ($493 million) — Identifying specific clinical indications.
  • Non-clinical workflow ($482 million) — Managing administrative operations such as scheduling and billing in a provider setting.

In short, digital health has aggressively moved past the fledgling stage. From here, innovators will need to demonstrate much more than a unique idea. They’ll be asked to show verifiable advancement in building, sustaining and scaling a profitable business model.

Imminent Innovations

Venture capitalists aside, doctors and researchers agree that technology-backed breakthroughs will figure prominently among major medical developments expected in 2018.

Cleveland Clinic, which annually publishes a top-ten list of innovations vetted by an internal panel of physicians and scientists, predicts disruption in areas such as diabetes management, telehealth and centralized monitoring of hospital patients.

For example, a closed-loop insulin delivery system, essentially an artificial pancreas, will improve outcomes for Type 1 diabetes patients and increasingly be reimbursable by insurers this year, according to the report. The system will continuously link a monitoring device to an insulin pump to stabilize blood glucose at an unprecedented level, rather than requiring the patient to determine how much insulin to inject.

Also on the immediate horizon, distance health technologies will be widely adopted, with 90 percent of healthcare executives reporting active or emerging telehealth programs. Telehealth is now integrated with more than 19 million patients using attachable devices to record and report medical information. The technology will remove geographic barriers to care, enabling timely treatment to vulnerable populations at significantly reduced cost.

We’ll also see provider organizations implementing “mission control”-type operations, through which off-site personnel use sensors and high-definition cameras to monitor patients’ blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, oxygen level and other essential readings. This type of system can double the number of monitored patients per technician while initiating advance warnings of trouble in areas such as cardiology wards.

The Agility Factor

Disruptive healthcare technologies typically incorporate some aspect of data integration geared toward actionable intervention or prevention that justifies initial and ongoing investment. The takeaway for healthcare decision-makers is that traditional spending on day-to-day IT activities will give way to hand-picked services available through the cloud.

“The role of the chief information officer won’t be so much operations and keeping disks spinning and data centers powered as much as it will be integration and figuring out how procured cloud services fit together,” observes John Halamka, MD, CIO at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“So you might even imagine that IT departments will start to shrink because so much of what we have done in the past with internal staff will be done with cloud-hosted services,” Halamka continues. “And the great joy of this is that if you don’t like one cloud-hosted service, you can change it. So it’s going to give you some agility.”

NetDirector’s cloud-based HealthData Exchange precisely fits today’s model for disruption with low-cost, high-speed data and document sharing capabilities. For more information on the HealthData Exchange platform, please contact us or request a free demo.

How 2017 Became the Year of Integration

When all’s said and done, 2017 may be best remembered as the year big business put an indelible stamp on healthcare. Sure, we’ve had similar maneuvers in the past from the likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft, but each of those initiatives struggled with consumer connection, especially when it came to individuals surrendering their personal health information.

What’s different this time? Drugstore chain CVS Health’s proposed (subject to regulatory approval) buyout of insurance giant Aetna — at $69 billion, the largest health insurance deal in history— could transform pharmacy storefronts into community health clinics, giving patients streamlined access to primary care, medications and insurance services in unified hubs.

Some industry experts acknowledge potential systemic efficiencies that would accompany this type of vertical integration. However, they also caution that consolidation could trigger insurance network restrictions and a move toward “transactional care,” in which patients see doctors for isolated consultation without any established history or context of treatment.

Other observers see the purchase more as a preemptive move by CVS to fend off retail kingpin Amazon’s interest in pharmaceutical distribution (particularly for expensive and difficult-to-obtain specialty drugs). Amazon has acquired pharmacy licenses in 12 states and has kicked off discussions with generic drugmakers, according to media reports.

Whatever the true motivation — and it very well could be a combination of all factors outlined above — healthcare models are undeniably trending toward large-scale integration as 2017 draws to a close. And that’s sure to bring opportunities and challenges to stakeholders, including IT companies, along the way.

Integration in Various Forms

As 2017 began, advisory firms counseled hospital executives to integrate clinical delivery with financial sustainability in preparation for almost certain payment cuts. One health system followed such a course, slashing annual operating costs by $12 million in just six months by focusing solely on reducing excess lengths of stay. That type of integration works around mutual biases: (1) clinicians worrying that cost-cutting would jeopardize care quality and (2) financial teams perceiving doctors’ resistance to data analysis that would measure costs.

Meanwhile, along healthcare’s leading edge, IT initiatives pushed forward throughout the year. “I believe an urgent priority for our healthcare system is to move from the traditional one-to-one model to a more efficient, time- and place-independent care delivery system,” commented Joseph Kvedar, MD, vice president of connected health at Partners Healthcare.

Kvedar’s remarks accompanied the Personal Connected Health Alliance’s release of new design guidelines for sharing patient-generated health data with providers via HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) specifications. The guidelines support data integration into electronic health records (EHRs) from 26 vital signs sensors and 40 health/ medical/ fitness devices for remote monitoring of chronic diseases, as well as health and fitness measures.

In related ways, we saw positive disruption in data exchange between payers and providers, setting the stage for real-time alerts that would help prescribing physicians prevent drug-drug interactions or other potentially harmful outcomes.

Additionally, EHR vendors did their part to integrate cloud-based versions of traditional systems, bringing cost-effective processes and simplified technology contracting to small hospitals and physician practices.

As we witnessed, a lot can happen over the course of a year. Continued progress in integration will depend on straightforward but flexible options for sharing data and documents across the healthcare ecosystem. NetDirector offers those exact capabilities in its HealthData Exchange platform so that care facilities don’t have to worry about managing — and staying ahead of — the ever-changing technology curve.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

Cloud Services Advancing in Healthcare Technology

Nine hospitals across the country have filed for bankruptcy thus far in 2017. Small facilities, in particular, continue to feel the pinch from a combination of dwindling patient volume, rising capital requirements, escalating costs of care, bad debt accruals and lack of Medicaid funding.

Clearly, something needs to be done to stem the flow of red ink.

Fortunately, we’re seeing a healthy response from health IT vendors, who’ve identified an opportunity among the chaos. Electronic health record (EHR) firms Meditech, athenahealth and eClinicalWorks have rolled out cloud-based versions of their platforms aimed at bringing cost-effective processing and simplified technology contracting to the small-hospital domain.

Even EHR stalwart Epic is joining the movement. On Nov. 1, Tahoe Forest Health System, which serves two rural counties across 3,500 square miles in California and Nevada, went live with a new version of Epic’s EHR. The health system’s CFO, Crystal Betts, anticipates “significant savings without the maintenance of eight EHRs and [retirement of] a host of third-party ancillary systems no longer needed.” Betts added, “The cherry on top is time saved and a boost to quality and safety with a tightly integrated EHR that just works.”

Likewise, athenahealth’s cloud-based EHR has made a significant impact at Coastal Orthopedics (Conway, S.C.), which implemented the technology a little over a year ago to replace separate EHR and practice management systems. “We wanted to be in a position to jump in quickly and effectively as population health management becomes [our] new top-of-mind issue,” noted practice administrator Andrew Wade. With the EHR taking on redundant data-collection tasks, providers and staff have been able to spend more time on patient care.

Above and Beyond

Meanwhile, the healthcare research/ academic community is also leveraging the power of cloud computing. For example, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, scientists and physicians have access to more than 100 terabytes of data generated by DNA sequences as they study the molecular basis of breast and ovarian cancer. They use Amazon Web Services’ cloud to support a genomics platform that dynamically scales to analyze tens of thousands of genomes in a matter of minutes.

In short, cloud computing has enabled management to shift from worrying about data storage, performance, and security to helping researchers understand the sequenced output data.

There’s more to come, too. “The cloud is poised to play a prominent role when healthcare organizations deploy telemedicine, mobile health applications, and remote monitoring tools — trends that are inevitable as organizations implement value-based care programs,” according to a HIMSS Analytics cloud computing survey.

Pathway to Progress

As healthcare organizations continue to put their faith in the cloud, they’re looking for partners who can facilitate implementation and replace layers of internal systems management and integration. And, not coincidentally, they want to do so with predictable ongoing costs.

NetDirector’s cloud-based HealthData Exchange fits the desired profile by normalizing data and documents to achieve EHR interoperability with an expanding array of trading partners, including physician groups, labs, registries and imaging centers. Subscription pricing meshes with organizations’ emerging reliance on scalable services made possible by cloud technology.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

Healthcare, Ransomware, and Security Breaches

Ransomware, a treacherous malware exploit that encrypts victims’ data or prevents access to their devices, netted cybercriminals an estimated $1 billion in 2016.

Data-related extortion attacks on businesses rose three-fold during the first nine months of last year, equating to one every 40 seconds. Two-thirds of those hit by ransomware lost all or part of their corporate data and one-quarter spent weeks trying to restore access, according to Kaspersky Labs, a data security firm.

Perhaps even more alarming is a predicted shift from chaotic and sporadic ransomware incidents to steadier assaults in higher volumes. “There is no such thing as a low-risk sector anymore,” Kaspersky’s research warned.

Healthcare, with 16 percent of organizations having been hit by ransomware, ranks in the top 10 among targeted industries.

High stakes for healthcare

Hospitals and health systems, as HIPAA covered entities, must adopt safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic protected health information (ePHI). The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which enforces HIPAA, issued guidance in 2016 presuming a breach in the event of a ransomware attack involving ePHI. In other words, it’s up to the provider organization to prove that a breach did not occur by demonstrating low probability that ePHI was not compromised.

Nonetheless, many organizations remain non-compliant or take a stance of “calculated non-compliance.” That means they deem any potential fine to be cheaper than the reporting costs or technical resources needed to investigate incidents to OCR’s satisfaction, according to James Scott, senior fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology.

All the same, providers should be concerned whether ePHI is properly encrypted and adequately protected against compromise by ransomware. And from a system-wide perspective, additional safeguards should include proper use of passwords, removal of outdated software and unauthorized apps, adherence to regular backup procedures, and educating users not to open attachments or click links from unknown senders. Additionally, operating systems, browsers and antivirus programs should be updated to the latest version on all devices.

Also worth noting: Security shortfalls may be present in system integrations written in-house or by contracted developers.

In any event, “negligence gives cyber criminals the incentive to continue to launch ransomware attacks,” notes security website CSO.

And — as if on cue — a newly discovered form of ransomware may be released this month, reports TechRepublic. The malware, known as RedBoot, not only encrypts files but also permanently repartitions hard drives, rendering data unrecoverable. The alert advises businesses to back up workstations to some form of network or cloud storage, refresh all antivirus software definitions, and train users to avoid phishing scams.

A big ask

Hospitals have their hands full providing the best care possible for patients, around the clock, every day of the week. In that light, they shouldn’t be expected to shoulder the entire load of locking down data against an ever-expanding array of intruders.

Networking companies such as NetDirector have the expertise and capabilities needed to properly secure and integrate healthcare data. All of our certifications and processes (e.g., HIPAA and SOC2) are maintained above industry standards in a fully redundant, cloud-based platform. Healthcare clients put their trust in NetDirector to securely handle more than 10 million data and document transactions per month.

Although ransomware and related intrusions are real concerns, NetDirector stands ready to consult and assist in hardening defenses across the healthcare ecosystem.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

Why EHRs Don’t Have to be a Hindrance

Doctors persistently claim that electronic health record (EHR) systems take up too much of their time.

Bearing out that assertion, a just-published study in Annals of Family Medicine found that a cohort of 142 primary care physicians spent more than half their workday interacting with their EHR during and after clinic hours. Worse, the physicians, who were retrospectively followed through EHR event logs over the course of three years, allocated two-thirds of their computer-facing time to clerical and inbox work.

A separate commentary earlier this year issued a stark challenge to the healthcare IT industry: “[Talk] to ten practitioners at random who are involved in day-to-day emergency medicine or primary care medicine, the guys and gals on the busy front line, and find two of them who are enamored with their [EHR] tools.” The author, small-town physician Kenneth Bartholomew, MD, describes systems designed around billing and collections functions. Such EHRs, he argues, lack the ability to actually improve the workflow of diagnosis and patient management.

Closing the gap on EHR drawbacks

The clearly frustrated Dr. Bartholomew concludes that current EHRs put the wrong tools in the hands of everyday caregivers. While EHRs help assemble patient history, along with physical and laboratory evidence, the technology requires doctors to “push the chain” of information from behind — rather than “pulling it from the front.”

Nonetheless, it’s also important to recognize EHRs’ positive impacts within a digital, connected healthcare environment. Evidence of benefits include:

  • cost savings derived from prevention of adverse drug events;
  • enabling access by emergency personnel to patients’ pre-existing health information (such as medication lists, allergies, and medical histories);
  • use of medical histories to remind physicians of the best methods of care for specific patients; and
  • improvement of reporting, investigation, response, and communication between public health officials and clinicians.

What’s more, EHRs have been shown to mitigate risk for healthcare providers and health systems by enabling evidence-based decisions at the point of care, aiding in research directed toward improvements in care, and preventing liability actions by documenting complete records of care and informed consent.

Also, significant, EHRs can help drive up patient satisfaction. More than 90 percent of patients report being happy that their doctor used EHR-powered e-prescribing capabilities — and that they rarely encounter prescriptions not being ready at their connected pharmacy.

EHRs and interoperability

Looking ahead, the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has prioritized enhancing EHR usability, as well as facilitating seamless exchange of information among different EHR systems. In fact, the 21st Century Cures Act, enacted at the end of 2016, specifies the development of a national framework and common agreement to promote comprehensive network-to-network health data sharing. ONC will be organizing work in these areas and expects to have preliminary plans in place by next year.

NetDirector actively supports strong, automated integration of EHR capabilities throughout the healthcare ecosystem. Hospitals and physicians can deploy NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange to normalize data to standard HL7 and other formats to achieve EHR interoperability while removing the bottlenecks of traditional interfacing — all without adding hours to the physician’s already hectic schedule.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

NetDirector Enters Comprehensive Agreement to Partner with My Constant Care, LLC for Integration Services

TAMPA, Fla.Sept. 28, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — NetDirector, a cloud-based data exchange and integration platform, has expanded their Integration-Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) offerings once again. A strong partnership has been forged with My Constant Care, LLC to provide them with a cloud based integration suite for the already cloud-centric company.

My Constant Care (MCC) provides a unified cloud-based platform for integration and delivery of preventive services such as Annual Wellness Visits, Chronic Care Management, Advanced Care Planning, and Preventative Screenings. Their turnkey delivery model provides patients with the full spectrum of preventive services to enhance overall care delivery without disrupting day-to-day operations of the practice. My Constant Care focuses on maximizing value to both providers and patients. They do this with expert coordination of preventive care options available today while strategically shaping these services to meet performance requirements expected of their future providers in the future. They offer a no-financial-risk solution to the physicians, providing the staff, software, and technology to perform their services.

Utilizing the cloud for integration was a clear next step to elevate the services offered by MCC. NetDirector’s One-to-Many style integration allows MCC to connect to NetDirector once and exchange data seamlessly with EHR systems, billing platforms, and more as the hub expands. Now, MCC’s services can integrate with existing provider platforms as well as future additions to a provider’s suite of technology solutions without relying on internal resources to bridge the gap between solutions.

My Constant Care helps primary care physicians provide a level of service to their Medicare population previously not achievable by small practices,” says Kellie Privette, the Director of Sales and Business Development at MCC. Privette added that “NetDirector’s integration expertise and technology allows MCC to seamless transfer patient data into their customer’s EHR and billing systems, without double entry of a substantial amount of information.”

This integration also increases a provider’s compliance, allowing even small practices to provide the quality and timeliness of service of a larger provider while maintaining and exceeding compliance standards for the healthcare technology industry. By eliminating data entry steps and automating the exchange of patient information securely, the integration allows for providers utilizing My Constant Care to focus more on the patients, and less on the technology behind the scenes.

“We’re very enthusiastic about our partnership with My Constant Care,” said Harry Beisswenger, CEO of NetDirector. “Their services fill a gap in the healthcare industry, and we’re looking forward to helping them achieve their goals of seamless preventive care for everyone.”

Company Bio:

NetDirector provides a secure cloud-based data and document exchange solution for the healthcare and mortgage banking industries to deliver seamless data integration between parties. NetDirector bridges gaps created by disparate systems & technologies by allowing companies at any location to share data & documents securely over a single internet connection with any other member of the ecosystem. Our approach allows trading partners to collaborate and exchange data in a seamless, bi-directional, real-time manner. With security and longevity as a focus, NetDirector is a certified HIPAA Compliant and SOC II Type 2 certified company, a 6-year member of the prominent Inc. 5000, and currently processes more than 8 million transactions per month.

Blockchain Technology: An Emerging Force in Healthcare Integration

Back in March, at the conclusion of the HIMSS17 annual conference, we pointed to blockchain as one of the most noteworthy recent developments in the healthcare IT space. We emphasized that blockchain technology, which uses a distributed database and cryptography to securely manage records and create a permanent record of online transactions, deserves recognition for its potential to increase IT and organizational efficiencies — highly valued attributes in light of Healthcare’s perpetually constrained resources.

An IBM Institute for Business Value study explains that data captured on blockchains can be shared in real time across a scalable group of individuals and institutions. “Every event or transaction is time-stamped and becomes part of a long chain, or permanent record, that can’t be tampered with after the fact,” according to the study report, which finds 16 percent of healthcare organizations ready to commercialize blockchain at scale in 2017.

Where will things go from here?

Room to grow

In practical terms, blockchain could be used in areas such as population health to aggregate patient and financial data that formerly would have been available only from separate sources such as health information exchanges and claims databases.

Further, blockchain’s ability to enable secure and irrevocable data exchange systems would provide “seamless access to historic and real-time data, while eliminating the burden and cost of data reconciliation,” explains Reenita Das, senior vice president of transformational healthcare at research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Micah Winkelspecht, founder and CEO of blockchain start-up Gem, characterizes blockchain as a tool for interoperability — in essence, an open-source protocol layer incorporating rules to which software can be written. “It’s basically like a language that all [participating] companies agree to speak in order to be able to interoperate with each other,” he adds. Unlike the current EHR-centric healthcare system, blockchain would be the “underlying fabric” for the entire continuum of care, “a decentralized, distributed, global data repository that’s basically shared and controlled by everyone,” he envisions.

Cross-industry philosophy

Related, in the mortgage industry, a similar foundational approach has experts believing in blockchain as an enabling technology empowering lenders to overcome current challenges in electronic processes.

Blockchain would be applied as a thin layer atop an existing document management system to effectively “freeze” a copy of the signed documentation, thereby proving it has never been altered and that the original document resides in its original location. Focus would shift from e-signature tools to blockchain as the core technology structure for compliance and document management — without requiring a completely reworked electronic process.

NetDirector recognizes ongoing and changing security needs in industries such as healthcare and mortgage banking. Companies on the front lines shouldn’t have to rewrite existing integrations or pay multiple vendors in their respective networks to operationalize individual system connections.

Within the healthcare ecosystem, NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange builds on a standard data model to map to HL7 or other data formats and achieve EHR interoperability while removing the bottlenecks of traditional interfacing. Such integrative technology holds the promise of making future security updates and landscape changes far more manageable.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

What Can We Learn from eClinicalWorks’ Big Mistake?

Electronic health record (EHR) vendor eClinicalWorks (eCW) and several of its executives are on the hook for $155 million to resolve a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging that the company misrepresented the capabilities of its software. The U.S. Department of Justice announced the settlement on May 31.

Resolution of the case also required eCW to enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG), which oversees “meaningful use” incentive payments to healthcare providers relating to their adoption and implementation of certified EHR technology.

According to the government, eCW concealed that its software was “hardcoded” to meet certification requirements for standardized drug codes instead of actually retrieving the proper drug codes from a complete database. Other cited faults in eCW’s software included:

  • not having an audit log for accurate recording of user actions;
  • not reliably recording diagnostic imaging orders;
  • not reliably performing drug interaction checks; and
  • failing to satisfy data portability requirements for transferring patient data from eCW’s system to other vendors’ software.

All told, because of the deficiencies, “eCW caused the submission of false claims for federal incentive payments based on the use of eCW’s software,” HHS-OIG charged. $125 million of the company’s fines will go to repay Medicare and Medicaid for incentive disbursements under their respective meaningful use programs. (eCW customers who successfully attested to meaningful use in good faith will not be linked in on the government repayments.)

Aside from the financial penalties, eCW’s CIA, which extends for five years, requires the company to retain an independent oversight organization to assess its software quality control systems, with semi-annual written reports to be filed with HHS-OIG. The CIA also mandates that eCW allow its customers to obtain free software updates; customers also have the option of transferring their data to another EHR vendor without penalties or service charges.

Industry fallout

eCW agreed to the settlement without acknowledging any wrongdoing. The company said it did so to avoid lengthy and costly litigation. eCW’s EHR system remains certified under the meaningful use program. Nonetheless, the underlying facts of the case appear to have cast a broad shadow across the health IT landscape.

A report compiled by market research firm Reaction Data after announcement of the settlement found 71 percent of respondents saying they would be extremely unlikely to consider eCW in the future. What’s more, 27 percent indicated that the case had lowered confidence in their current EHR vendor, and 35 percent reported being “significantly more suspicious” of other EHR vendors.

Healthcare attorney Bob Ramsey told Healthcare Informatics that the eCW allegations may be an extreme case, but added, “Interoperability and data portability is viewed as necessary in the health world, but it’s easier said than done.”

Peter DeVault, vice president of interoperability at EHR vendor Epic, recently noted that healthcare providers would be well served to rely less on EHR certifications moving forward and to concentrate more heavily on demonstrated benefits.

NetDirector’s vendor-neutral approach to data exchange elevates providers’ ability to achieve EHR interoperability while working toward meaningful use incentives. In an environment currently clouded by skepticism, the HealthData Exchange platform automates integrations in a manner that exceeds industry standards.

NetDirector CEO Harry Beisswenger puts the technology in perspective: “It’s important for us to aid healthcare providers and vendors in reaching meaningful use benchmarks because we know that ultimately impacts the level of patient care.”

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.