Hospital EHR Contracts and EHR Lock In

Posted on December 15, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The following email just makes me cringe in pain (specific vendor names removed):

Our small hospital has chosen EMR Vendor A, and is trying to push it onto our clinics against our complaints. My CEO sat down with me to try to mollify my complaints, saying that the previous CEO had signed the 1.2 million contract, and they couldn’t back out until we were reimbursed (the same $1.2 million figure, of course) for meaningful use. This mandate reportedly comes from the hospital board. Thus we are expected to suffer with this system for 2+ years, with some hint of maybe being able to drop EMR Vendor A in the clinics after that time. When I told him that the reduction in productivity and morale while using this system may cost more than 1.2 mil, he said we should find some “work-arounds” to deal with that. Legally, this may all be OK, but it seems fraudulent in intent, and a bad idea. Just another story from the real world.

What an incredibly challenging situation to deal with. We’ve certainly seen the movement towards consolidation of medical practices by hospital. I wonder how many doctors will end up leaving the hospital to run their own practice again just based on the EHR choice that their hospital system chose.

What’s more important is whoever negotiated this $1.2 million project seems to have done a pretty terrible job. I imagine there still are ways to get out a contract like this, but it would take a unique CEO to make that choice.

Of course, this is only one doctor’s side of the story. There could be other angles where this EHR vendor works fine. To me, that’s one of the real challenges facing a hospital system which has every clinic under the sun. I remember one hospital system that had 10-15 different pediatric specialties (let alone all their regular specialties). So, not only were they trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, but they were trying to fit the round peg into a diamond, triangle, star, etc hole as well. That becomes quite an enormous challenge.

I imagine we’re going to hear more “real world” stories like the one above going forward. I guess it’s just one more reason why the healthcare platform I just wrote about on EMR and HIPAA will be that much more important going forward.