What Would You Do If your EHR Vendor Shut Off Access to Your EHR?

Posted on September 25, 2014 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.

Anne Zieger at Healthcare Dive has an interesting summary of a practice who just had their EHR access shutdown by an EHR vendor. Here’s the summary of what happened:

*A small medical practice in northern Maine has been blocked from accessing patient medical records because its EMR vendor has shut them off.
*Vendor CompuGroup says the practice, Full Circle Health Care, won’t get access to its records back until it pays $20,000 in overdue charges to the vendor.
*The medical group acknowledges that it stopped paying CompuGroup $2,000 per month in monthly fees 10 months before the July shut off, but said that was after months of attempting to address what the practice considered to be exorbitant, unexpected maintenance fees and charges for hardware that didn’t arrive.

This is a really challenging situation. No doubt the vendor wants to make sure it gets paid and needs some sort of recourse. Although, if you’ve ever had an EHR on which you relied, you know how important it can be to the care you provide. Just ask anyone who has had their EHR go down. Unless you have great EHR downtime procedures it can get a little crazy. Now just imagine that your EHR was taken down with no sign of when it will be back up.

Of course, we’re a little short on the exact details of what happened with Full Circle Health Care and CompuGroup. I’d love to know how many warnings CompuGroup gave Full Circle Health Care before they turned it off. If they gave them the right number of warnings over a certain period, then I don’t begrudge them for making the decision they made. If they just pulled the plug without very specific warnings about what was going to happen, then CompuGroup should get some of the blame.

This would make for an interesting court case. I imagine there’s previous case law from other industries that would illustrate what would happen. Although, in healthcare we’re not just talking about lost business and financial impact. Turning off someone’s EHR could literally kill someone. That’s pretty scary to consider.

I’m surprised that CompuGroup hasn’t gotten ahead of the story. That’s what I’d want to do if I were in their shoes. Unless the facts don’t put CompuGroup in a very nice light. However, it’s hard to put them in a worse light than they already are in with the story above.

Do you think it’s ok for an EHR vendor to turn off someone’s EHR if they stop paying? Should there be laws that say that an EHR vendor can’t do that? What would you do if you were in this practice’s situation?

For me this is really hard to think about, because if I were at that practice I would never let it get to this point. I’ve heard of a few cases where EHR vendors have become a black hole of unresponsiveness. However, that’s really rare and usually only happens when other really major and scarier things are happening at the company.