Doctors Who Sued EHR Company Win First Round

Neil Chesanow

Disclosures

March 04, 2013

In This Article

Editor's Note: This article originally posted on February 22, after a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and compel the plaintiffs to accept binding arbitration was argued in court. On March 4, the court ruled on that motion. This article has been updated to include that ruling.

Introduction

On Monday, March 4, a group of doctors who are suing their electronic health record (EHR) manufacturer for selling them a "buggy" product and then discontinuing it learned that the defendant's motion to block the lawsuit and compel them to accept binding arbitration was overruled by a judge in Miami, the first step in getting a court date in what is believed to be a first-of-its-kind case.

At issue is the quality of the product the doctors were sold and the defendant's subsequent failure to support or improve it as promised. Anesthesiologist Robert J. Joseph, MD, of the Pain Clinic of Northwest Florida in Panama City, a plaintiff in the suit, makes no bones about it. "Our EHR is a piece of crap," he states.

In that assessment, Joseph is far from alone. According to a new report from Black Book Rankings, as many as 17% of practices are considering switching EHR vendors by the end of 2013. Among those interested in switching, 80% said that their current EHR didn't meet their needs, 77% said that the design of their EHR was ill-matched to their practice specialty, and 44% said that their vendor was unresponsive to their needs and requests.

But just how bad does the situation need to be to get a trial date? We're about to find out. The defendant in the suit is Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, the largest EHR manufacturer, which is accused of just these sorts of actions.

What Are the Facts?

In December 2012, 4 physician practices -- 2 pain clinics in Florida, 1 in Missouri, and a family medicine practice in Alabama -- became plaintiffs in a class-action suit filed against Allscripts, "an action arising from an expensive, but defective electronic health records software product," according to the complaint. The bottom line: The EHR was "buggy."

From 2009 to 2012, Allscripts sold the EHR, called MyWay, to approximately 5000 physicians who were either soloists or in small groups, for which the software was specifically designed. "The product never worked well," the complaint alleges, "and after four years in the face of mounting complaints and market pressures to resolve the issues or provide refunds...Allscripts made the decision to discontinue the marketing and sale of MyWay."

Robert Joseph's 3-provider clinic is one of the plaintiffs. The group purchased MyWay in June 2012 after sitting through a sales presentation, one of several they attended from different vendors. Joseph says that he asked the Allscripts reps targeted questions: Would MyWay be ICD-10-compliant? Would it meet phase 2 meaningful-use requirements? Would it include a specialty-specific module for pain management? Would there be responsive technical support? Was Allscripts committed to MyWay over the long term? Yes, he was assured, on all points. According to Joseph, Allscripts said that significant upgrades were in the works that would make it all possible.

MyWay cost about $40,000 per physician. In addition, Joseph says that Allscripts insisted that his 15-member staff undergo 20-25 hours of self-instruction on-site before it would even install MyWay in the practice, an expensive undertaking. "The learning curve frankly cost me more than the program because we lost money through our decreased ability to see patients," he says.

MyWay was inherently flawed, the complaint alleges. It was purchased by Allscripts from another firm that designed it as client-server software for use on a high-speed local area network. However, Allscripts' model for storing patient data for MyWay was cloud-based, and "the software performed poorly when delivered over the considerably slower and less reliable Internet."

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