When the Levee Breaks: eClinicalWorks and the Politics of Deception

Jim TateBy Jim Tate, EMR Advocate
Meaningful Use Audit Expert
Twitter: @JimTate, eMail: Inquiry@meaningfuluseaudits.com

Who knows when the tree will fall, the bridge will fail, or the levee will break? The lawsuit against eClinicalWorks had been winding its way through the judicial system for two years. Suddenly an agreement was announced, and it is sending shock waves throughout the EMR industry.

It was not intervention by HHS, ONC, or CMS that brought this to the surface. It was the Department of Justice and a False Claims Act lawsuit brought by a whistleblower. The major EHR vendor was accused of all kind of shenanigans including faking ONC certification testing and paying kickbacks. As expected eCW “denies any wrongdoing” but will fork over $155 million with $30 million of that going to the whistle blower. I imagine his attorney will receive a nice slice of that key lime pie. The big news is that EHR vendors suddenly find themselves at risk. After years of virtual immunity, vendors are suddenly being held accountable. With big potential pay days in the cards you can bet we will see quite a few more of these suits. The eCW lawsuit was filed in Vermont so claimants obviously can shop for a friendly jurisdiction if there are users in that state. Vendors will be vulnerable entities with deep pockets. This story has a long time to play out and eCW is but the first of many who will suffer this fate. Since it is a private company the financial damage is hard to foresee. However, there are many large publicly traded EHR vendors that I know are at significant risk. Tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money has been paid to providers to incentivize the adoption of interoperable electronic technology. A recent post of mine (The Open Secret of Health Information Technology – The Emperor Has No Clothes) highlighted this often claimed but seldom available interoperability functionality. The chickens are coming home to roost.

Jim Tate is known as the most experienced authority on the CMS Meaningful Use (MU) audit and appeal process. His unique combination of skills has brought successful outcomes to hospitals at risk of having their CMS EHR incentives recouped. He led the first appeal challenge in the nation for a client hospital that had received a negative audit determination. That appeal was decided in favor of the hospital. He has also been successful in leading the effort to reverse a failed appeal, even after the hospital had received notification of the failure with the statement, “This decision is final and not subject to further appeal”. That “final” decision was reversed in less than a week. If you are a hospital with questions or concerns about the meaningful use audit process, contact him at: Inquiry@meaningfuluseaudits.com.