Free EMR Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to EMR and EHR for FREE!

Is MACRA Ruining Healthcare?

Posted on January 22, 2018 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.

If you watch social media, physician forums or other places physicians gather, you’d be sure to hear complaining about MACRA and it’s partner in crime MIPS. Some are even still complaining about things like meaningful use and PQRS even though those have all been rolled into MACRA/MIPS now. At the end of the day, I don’t know a single doctor that likes MACRA and MIPS.

I take some of this with a grain of salt because I don’t know a single doctor who likes charting a patient visit either. This was true in the paper chart world and is just as true in the EHR world. Why would a doctor find joy in recording data from a patient visit? That’s like asking a lawyer if they like writing really long legal briefs or contracts full of legalese. We’d all rather just do the fun parts of our job. In medicine that’s seeing the patient, treating the patient, etc.

Charting will never be seen as fun, but doctors do it because it’s necessary to get paid. Although, this oversimplifies it. Doctors are amenable to charting the patient visit because having that information could help them at a future visit. Having a record of what happened at various visits is useful to the doctor the next time you come to see them. So, between reimbursement and continuity of care, there are clear benefits to why a doctor needs to record the visit.

This is the real problem with MACRA and MIPS. There’s no clear benefit to doctor for participating in MACRA and MIPS. At least with meaningful use there was a clear $44k payment that they’d receive. MIPS is much more nebulous and it’s revenue neutral so doctors really don’t know how much they’re going to be paid for participating.

Certainly, there are a whole lot of other nebulous reasons why a doctor should participate including physician reputation damage, lower provider compensation, diminished practice value, and even the ability to obtain and maintain loans. Some of these are going to hit doctors in the face and it’s going to hurt. However, most practices aren’t thinking in these terms. It takes a pretty wide vision to see all of these potential issues.

What about the clinical value associated with MACRA and MIPS? The studies haven’t really shown much clinical value. There’s a lot of hope around what could be done, but not any clear evidence of the benefits. Especially the benefits related to the specific MACRA requirements vs using an EHR generally.

All of this leaves doctors I know upset with MACRA and MIPS. They wish it would go away and that the government would stop being so involved in their practice.

The challenge I have with this idea is that many blame MACRA and MIPS for everything that’s wrong with EHR use and implementation in healthcare. Let’s imagine for a minute that Congress was functional enough to pass a law that would get rid of all of MACRA. Then what? Would doctor’s problems be solved?

We all know that healthcare would still have plenty of problems. In fact, doing away with MACRA would do very little to alleviate the burden doctors are experiencing in healthcare today. They’d all celebrate MACRA’s death, but then they’d realize the impact would be pretty small.

I’m not suggesting that just because it would only have a small impact it shouldn’t be done. Healthcare got to where we are because we were unwilling or unable to make the incremental changes that would improve the healthcare system. Now the problems are so big and complex that they’re much harder to solve. I’m am suggesting that there are bigger fish to fry than MACRA.

That said, I would suggest an overhaul and simplification of MACRA. I’d suggest we take all the requirements and pass them through this question “What does this requirement do to improve patient care?” If this were the test, I think MACRA would look significantly different. In fact, it might mean that MACRA should really just be interoperability, ePrescribing, and a HIPAA risk assessment (which we could argue is already required by HIPAA). Imagine the value patients would get if we blew MACRA up and just replaced it with interoperability requirements which have no natural incentive in our current system. That’s something I think doctors could get behind.

At the end of the day, MACRA could be improved. It should scare us that very few doctors are fans of it. However, we also should be careful to not overstate MACRA’s impact on healthcare. There are plenty of other issues we have to deal with as well.

Healthcare IT Humor – Fun Friday

Posted on January 19, 2018 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.

It’s Friday, so you know what that means. It’s time for a little bit of humor to get your weekend started off right. First, we’ll start off with a little bit of telemedicine humor. I’m sorry if this conjures up some scary images for you. You’ve been warned.

This next one just makes me laugh, but probably because we’re not too far away from something like this happening.

New Program Trains Physicians In Health Informatics Basics

Posted on January 18, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

A new program has emerged to help physicians make better use of the massive flow of health information they encounter on a day-to-day basis. With any luck, it will not only improve the skills of individual doctors but also seed institutions with clinicians who understand health IT in the practice of medicine.

The Indiana Training Program in Public and Population Health Informatics, which is supported by a five-year, $2.5 million award from the National Library of Medicine, focuses on public and population health issues. Launched in July 2017, it will support up to eight fellows annually.

The program is sponsored by Indiana University School of Medicine Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the Regenstrief Institute. Regenstrief, which is dedicated to healthcare quality improvement, supports healthcare research and works to bring scientific discoveries to bear on real-world problems.

For example, Regenstrief participates in the Healthcare Services Platform Consortium, which is addressing interoperability issues. There’s also the Regenstrief EHR Clinical Learning Platform, an AMA-backed program training medical student to cope with misidentified patient data, learn how different EHRs work and determine how to use them to coordinate care.

The Public and Population Health training, for its part, focuses on improving population health using advanced analytics, addressing public health problems such as opioid addiction, obesity and diabetes epidemics using health IT and supporting the implementation of ACOs.

According to Regenstrief, fellows who are accepted into the program will learn how to manage and analyze large data sets in healthcare public health organizations; use analytical methods to address population health management; translate basic and clinical research findings for use in population-based settings; creating health IT programs and tools for managing PHI; and using social and behavioral science approaches to solve PHI management problems.

Of course, training eight fellows per year is just a tiny drop in the bucket. Virtually all healthcare institutions need senior physician leaders to have some grasp of healthcare informatics or at least be capable of understanding data issues. Without having top clinical leaders who understand informatics principles, health data projects could end up at a standstill.

In addition, health systems need to train front-line IT staffers to better understand clinical issues — or hire them if necessary. That being said, finding healthcare data specialists is tricky at best, especially if you’re hoping to hire clinicians with this skill set.

Ultimately, it’s likely that health systems will need to train their own internal experts to lead health IT projects, ideally clinicians who have an aptitude for the subject. To do that, perhaps they can use the Regenstrief approach as a model.

5 Ways to Keep Patients from Feeling like a Number

Posted on January 17, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Jim Higgins, Founder & CEO at Solutionreach. You can follow him on twitter: @higgs77

Think about the last time you felt upset at work. What was the root cause? Did you feel ignored? Overlooked? Unappreciated? If so, you are not alone. Studies have found that two out of three workers feel unappreciated at work and 65 percent would prefer a better boss over a pay raise. Everyone wants to feel that they matter. It’s simply part of our nature as social beings. This need to feel valued is not restricted to the work environment. In fact, studies find that it extends far beyond the office walls to retail, service, and—yes—healthcare experiences.

The Patient-Provider Relationship Study confirmed this—noting that practices can no longer rely on their excellent clinical care to keep patients coming back. Patient dissatisfaction is at an all-time high, prompting patients across the generations to switch physicians.

Between 43 and 44 percent of millennials and Gen Xers will switch providers in the next few years. It’s not just the younger generations, even baby boomers are restless—20 percent are likely to find a new physician in the next three years. While patient dissatisfaction is a complex issue with multiple solutions, one of the easiest and most effective treatments also has the lowest cost to practices—making patients feel valued.

Here are six simple tools a provider can use to help patients feel they are important:

  1. Acknowledge. Nothing makes patients feel like they are on the conveyor belt of medical care more than being ignored. There is a reason the grocery king, Walmart, pays to have people simply greet you as you enter and leave the store. Humans like to be acknowledged. Consider having different front desk staff assigned as the office “greeter” along with their regular duties. A quick, “Welcome John! I’ll be right with you” along with a genuine smile can go a surprisingly long way towards patient satisfaction.
  2. Remember. Try to remember small things about each patient. One way is through use of their name. Another great time to show a patient you remember them is on their birthday. Eighty five percent of Americans say that they feel special when others celebrate their birthday. It is easy to automate a personalized birthday email or text message that keeps you connected outside of the office.
  3. Respond. Medical offices are busy. There’s no way around it. But when a patient reaches out, it is important to respond as quickly as possible. The ability to two-way text with patients is handy here because it allows you to acknowledge (see #1) a message from an out-of-office patient while still being present with patients in the office.
  4. Listen. It can be easy to brush past comments or questions from patients. In fact, research shows that the average patient is interrupted within 18 seconds of their visit. Instead of assuming that you know what a patient is going to say, wait patiently until they finish speaking. Devote your energy to looking at them and focusing on them while they talk.
  5. Thank. Patients are the reason you are in business. Every position in a medical office is made possible because of patients. During the hectic everyday rush, it can be easy to forget this simple fact. Try shooting off a personal “thank you” email or text (or even a handwritten note). The good news is that research shows that showing gratitude not only improves the well-being of those you thank, but your own well-being as well.

It is often the small things that can make the biggest difference to patient satisfaction. In the era of consumer-centric patients, it is important to help patients feel like more than just another number. Following these five simple steps will bring practices closer to that goal.

Solutionreach is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. As the leading provider of patient relationship management solutions, Solutionreach is dedicated to helping practices improve the patient experience while saving time for providers and staff. Learn more about the Patient-Provider relationship survey here.

Ophthalmologists Worry That EHRs Decrease Productivity, Boost Costs

Posted on January 16, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

A new study has concluded that while EHR use among ophthalmologists has shot up over the last decade, most of these doctors see the systems as lowering their productivity and increasing their office costs, according to a survey published in JAMA Ophthalmology.

To conduct the study, the researchers emailed surveys to 2,000 ophthalmologists between 2015 and 2016. The 2,000 respondents, whose responses were anonymous, were chosen out of more than 18,000 active US members of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The researchers involved found that the EHR adoption rate for ophthalmologists, which is about 72.1%, was similar to rates among other specialties. Nonetheless, it’s a big jump from 2011, when only 47% of the 492 respondents reported using EHRs in their practice.

Most respondents were devoted solely to ophthalmology and had an average of 22 years of practice. They had an average of 5.3 years of EHR use, but nearly the entire group had previously used paper records. Eighty-eight percent of those currently using EHRs had been present for the transition from paper records to digital ones, researchers found.

Not surprisingly, given typical EHR acquisition and maintenance costs, the mean number of ophthalmologists in a given practice was higher among those with an EHR in place than practices without one. Researchers found that when practices were part of an integrated health system, a government health system, the higher the odds of their having adopted an EHR.

While the adoption rate has increased, ophthalmologists actually seem less happy with EHRs than they had been before. For example, many reported that they felt EHRs were undermining both their productivity and financial situation.

For example, more than half of respondents in 2016 reported that their patients seen per day had fallen since adopting EHRs. That’s an unfortunate change in perceptions since in 2006, more than 60% of ophthalmologists saw an increase in productivity after their EHR system was implemented.

Meanwhile, respondents were ambivalent about the impact of EHR use on revenue, with 35% reporting that revenue had remained the same after adoption, 41% a decrease and almost 9% an increase.

Despite concerns that EHRs were undercutting practice productivity, researchers reported that three previous studies of academic ophthalmology practices found no change in patient volume after EHR adoption.

There also seems to be a disconnect between what ophthalmologists think their patients want technically and what they want.  While 76% reported that their patients felt mostly positive or neutral toward EHR use, 36% of ophthalmologists would return to paper records if they had the chance.

That being said, ophthalmology practices do seem to see the benefits in keeping their EHR systems in place. For example, despite the fact that 68% saw paper documentation as faster, 53% of respondents felt their EHRs were generating net positive value.

All told, it seems that ophthalmologists’ concerns about EHR use are working themselves out. However, it also seems as though the doubts we see documented here are deeply rooted and may not go away quickly.

Helping Others – Martin Luther King Day

Posted on January 15, 2018 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.

Today in the US, we’re celebrating the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. To celebrate the holiday, I thought it would be great to share some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s quotes. Many of the messages are relevant to the healthcare and illustrate what makes those working in healthcare so special.

Big Gap Exists Between Wearables Hype And Physician Use

Posted on January 12, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Not long ago, I wrote an article describing some major advances in wearables and health tracking technologies. Standout technologies included Grail, a cancer detection startup, Beddit, which makes sleep tracking technology, and Senosis Health, which developed apps using smartphone sensors to monitor health signals.

In the article, I argued that we’re past the question of whether wearables are valuable and that it’s time to focus on what we want to do with next-generation of superpowered health tracking devices instead. I was driven by stats like the ones produced by the Consumer Technology Association, which asserted last year that by 2020, physician use of patient-generated data will reach critical mass. It noted that wearables are being used more often in clinical trials and that some health insurers offering free wearables to patients, trends which it predicts will cause the market to explode.

But at least to some extent, I think the CTA (and I) were both wrong. As impressive as the new patient trackers are, they won’t be that valuable if nobody on the frontlines of medicine uses them. And even if trackers are being used in clinical trials or given away by health insurers, that doesn’t mean physicians are on board. The issue is not just whether devices work well, but whether doctors can actually use them in their daily care routine.

Recent stats suggest that few physicians actually use patient-generated data in their practice. In fact, the Physicians Practice Technology Survey found that just 5% of respondents reported that they use such such devices as part of their care routine.

I’m not surprised by this research. My own informal discussions with physicians suggest that the number of practices that actively use patient-generated data may be even lower than 5%.

Why are so few medical practices leveraging patient-generated data? The reasons are fairly straightforward:

  • Few of devices offer measurements that are consistent, predictable and valid
  • Vanishingly few are FDA-approved, which does little to inspire clinicians’ confidence
  • In most cases, the data produced by wearables and related devices isn’t compatible with practice EMRs

For what it’s worth, I do believe that many physicians — especially those with an interest in health IT– know that patient-generated health data will eventually play a valuable role in their practice. After all, in principle, there must be ways that such data could inform patient care.

But right now, the simple devices patients own aren’t sophisticated enough to serve practice needs, and most of the advanced patient tracking devices are at the idea or testing phase. Until patient tracking devices become more practical, and offer reliable, valid, usable data, they’re likely to remain a dark horse.

AI Project Could Prevent Needless Blindness

Posted on January 11, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

At this point, you’re probably sick of hearing about artificial intelligence and the benefits it may offer as a diagnostic tool. Even so, there are still some AI stories worth telling, and the following is one of them.

Yes, IBM Watson Health recently had a well-publicized stumble when it attempted to use “cognitive computing” to detect cancer, but that may have more to do with the fact that Watson was under so much pressure to produce results quickly with something that could’ve taken a decade to complete. Other AI-based diagnostic projects seem to be making far more progress.

Consider the following, for example. According to a story in WIRED magazine, Google is embarking on a project which could help eye doctors detect diabetic retinopathy and prevent blindness, basing its efforts on technologies it already has in-house.

The tech giant reported last year that it had trained image recognition algorithms to detect tiny aneurysms suggesting that the patient is in the early stages of retinopathy. This system uses the same technology that allows Google’s image search photo and photo storage services to discriminate between various objects and people.

To take things to the next step, Google partnered with the Aravind Eye Care System, a network of eye hospitals based in India. Aravind apparently helped Google develop the retinal screening system by contributing some of the images it already had on hand to help Google develop its image parsing algorithms.

Aravind and Google have just finished a clinical study of the technology in India with Aravind. Now the two are working to bring the technology into routine use with patients, according to a Google executive who spoke at a recent conference.

The Google exec, Lily Peng, who serves as a product manager with the Google Brain AI research group, said that these tools could help doctors to do the more specialized work and leave the screening to tools like Google’s. “There is not enough expertise to go around,” she said. “We need to have a specialist working on treating people who are sick.”

Obviously, we’ll learn far more about the potential of Google’s retinal scanning tech once Aravind begins using it on patients every day. In the meantime, however, one can only hope that it emerges as a viable and safe tool for overstressed eye doctors worldwide. The AI revolution may be overhyped, but projects like this can have an enormous impact on a large group of patients, and that can’t be bad.

MedStar’s Human Factors Center: An Interview with Dr. Raj Ratwani

Posted on January 10, 2018 I Written By

When Carl Bergman isn't rooting for the Washington Nationals or searching for a Steeler bar, he’s Managing Partner of EHRSelector.com.For the last dozen years, he’s concentrated on EHR consulting and writing. He spent the 80s and 90s as an itinerant project manager doing his small part for the dot com bubble. Prior to that, Bergman served a ten year stretch in the District of Columbia government as a policy and fiscal analyst, a role he recently repeated for a Council member.

Background: Recently, I had a wide ranging interview with Dr. Raj Ratwani, Acting Center Director and Scientific Director of MedStar Health’s National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare.

The center is MedStar’s patient safety, and usability applied research arm. MedStar is the Mid Atlantic area’s largest medical facility non profit operating 10 major hospitals as well as dozens of urgent care, rehab and medical groups.

MedStar set up the center, as part of its Institute for Innovation five years ago. The Institute is an in house service of several centers that conduct research, analysis, development and education. In addition to human factors, the Institute turns MedStar staff’s ideas into commercial products, conducts professional education, encourages healthy lifestyles and develops in house software products.

The Human Factors Center’s work concentrates on medical devices, as well as creating new processes and procedures. The center’s 30 person staff features physicians, nurses, engineers, product designers, patient safety, usability and human factors specialists. The Center’s focus is on both MedStar and on improving the nation’s healthcare system with grants and contracts from AHRQ, ONC, CMS, etc., as well as many device manufacturers.

Dr. Ratwani: Dr. Ratwani’s publications are extensive and were one reason prompting my interview. I met with him in his office in the old Intelsat building along with Rachel Wynn the center’s post doctoral fellow. We covered several topics from the center’s purpose to ONC’s Meaningful Use (MU) program to the center’s examination of adverse event reporting systems.

Center’s Purpose: I started by asking him what he considered the center’s main focus? He sees the center’s mission as helping those who deliver services by reducing their distractions and errors and working more productively. He said that while the center examines software systems, devices take up the lion’s share of its time from a usability perspective.

The center works on these issues in several ways. Sometimes they just observe how users carry out a task. Other times, they may use specialized equipment such as eye tracking systems. Regardless, their aim is to aid users to reduce errors and increase accuracy. He noted how distractions can cause errors even when a user is doing something familiar. If a distraction occurs in the middle of a task, the user can forget they’ve already done a step and will needlessly repeat it. This not only takes time, but can also lead to cascading errors.

Impact: I asked him how they work with the various medical centers and asked about their track record. Being in house, he said, they have the advantage of formal ties to MedStar’s clinicians. However, he said their successes were a mixed bag. Even when there is no doubt about a change’s efficacy, its acceptance can depend on a variety of budget, logistic and personal factors.

EHR Certification: I then turned to the center’s studies of ONC’s MU vendor product certification. Under his direction, the center sent a team to eleven major EHR vendors to examine how they did their testing. Though they interviewed vendor staffs, they were unable to see testing. Within that constraint, they still found great variability in vendor’s approach. That is, even though ONC allowed vendors to choose their own definition of user centered design, vendors often strayed even from these self defined standards.

MU Program: I then asked his opinion of the MU program. He said he thought that the $40 billion spent drove EHR adoption for financial not clinical reasons. He would have preferred a more careful approach. The MU1 and MU2 programs weren’t evidence based. The program’s criteria needed more pilot and clinical studies and that interoperability and usability should have been more prominent.

Adverse Events: Our conversation then turned to the center’s approach to adverse events, that is instances involving patient safety. Ratwani is proud of a change he helped implement in Medstar’s process. Many institutions take a blame game approach to them berating and shaming those involved. MedStar treats them as teaching moments. The object is to determine root causes and how to implement change. Taking a no fault approach promotes open, candid discussions without staff fearing repercussions.

I finally asked him about his studies applying natural language processing to adverse patient safety reports. His publications in this area analyze the free text sections of adverse reporting systems. He told me they often found major themes in the report texts that the systems didn’t note. As a follow on, he described their project to manage and present the text from these systems. He explained that even though these systems capture free text, the text is so voluminous that users have a difficult time putting them to use.

My thanks to Dr. Ratwani and his staff for arranging the interview and their patience in explaining their work.
____________________________________

A word about DC’s old Intelsat building that houses the Institute. Normally, I wouldn’t comment on an office building. If you’ve seen one, etc., etc. Not so here. Built in the 1980s, it’s an example of futurist or as I prefer to call it Sci-Fi architecture and then some. The building has 14 interconnected “pods” with a façade meant to look like, well, a gargantuan satellite.

Intelsat Building

 

To reach an office, you go down long, open walkways suspended above an atrium. It’s all other unworldly. You wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Princess Leia rounded a corner. It’s not on the usual tourist routes and you can’t just walk in, but if you can wangle it, it’s worth a visit.

Intelsat Building Interior

Clinicians File Class Action Suit Against eClinicalWorks

Posted on January 9, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

EMR provider eClinicalWorks has been hit by another class action lawsuit, this time a suit led by clinicians, raising questions as to how much legal trouble the vendor can survive.

The new suit is the latest of a series of dominos falling on eCW. Its legal problems began in May of last year, when it was forced to settle a suit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice for $155 million. The suit contended that eCW got its Meaningful Use certification by misrepresenting its capabilities.

Then, in November of last year, eCW was slammed with a class action lawsuit, this one demanding $1 billion. The suit alleged that by lying about the capabilities of its software, eCW “failed millions of patients by failing to maintain the integrity of patient records.”

Now, eCW faces another class action suit, this time led by primary care doctors. The suit alleges that because eCW’s software didn’t meet MU standards as promised, they lost government reimbursement. The suit asserts the eCW gave the PCPs “no reason to suspect that [it] had made false statements to obtain its certification.”

All of this is interesting in and of itself, but it doesn’t address the bigger question: Can eCW survive the legal firestorm that has engulfed the company?

eClinicalWorks is a private company, so I can’t offer detailed information on its finances, but it reported revenue of $130 million for the third quarter of 2017. If that’s a representative number, the company generates roughly half a billion dollars a year.

That’s a lot of money, but it’s not an infinite supply. The $155 million settlement has to have hurt (though I suppose it might have been covered in part or entirely by business liability insurance).

The other two lawsuits could prove more deadly. While it’s hard to predict whether a suit will go anywhere, there’s at least some chance that eCW will face a $1 billion judgment. Of course, even if it does lose the case, it will take effect only after several years of legal wrangling. Nonetheless, it seems likely that such a conclusion could bankrupt the company.

The other key question is whether eCW can hold onto its customers as lawsuit after lawsuit is filed. It might seem to some that eCW has been punished enough for its indiscretions, and that the additional lawsuits are largely part of a feeding frenzy. On the other hand, one might suggest that if eCW lied to all of its customers, it deserves to be forced out of business. It’s a flip of the coin at  this point.

Regardless, the suits do suggest that EMR vendors had better keep their noses clean. If they try to fool customers – or the feds – the results could be catastrophic.