AMIA: 'Hold harmless' clauses in vendor contracts unethical

Calling "hold harmless" clauses in health IT vendor contracts unethical, the American Medical Informatics Association is calling on vendors of EHRs and other clinical information systems to accept shared responsibility with their customers for patient safety and error management.

The recommendations, the work of an AMIA task force appointed by the association's board, "strive to imbue the HIT vendor-customer relationship with transparency, veracity, and accountability through collaborative education focused on the installation, configuration and use of HIT systems, in combination with enterprise-wide ethics education to support patient safety," according to an AMIA press release.

The task force focused particular attention on controversial "hold harmless" clauses in many contracts that seek to absolve vendors of responsibility for software or implementation defects that can compromise patient safety. "Safe and successful health IT systems further require ethics education, which has become a standard part of professional development in the corporate world," says the AMIA statement, released just a few days ahead of the Bethesda, Md.-based organization's annual symposium. (FierceEMR and FierceHealthIT will be on hand to cover the event.)

"Since 1997, the extraordinarily rapid growth of HIT system adoption, the direct digital links between patient physical monitoring systems and HIT, and, moreover, the role of government in fostering that adoption, suggests that additional work--if not ongoing assessment--is necessary," reads the statement. "Therefore, the Task Force recommends that AMIA join with other stakeholders to revisit the role of governmental and other formal regulation and governance of institutions that manufacture and use health information systems--including, but not limited to, electronic health records, personal health records, computerized provider order entry systems, electronic medication administration record systems and laboratory systems."

The position statement will appear in the January/February print edition of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, but it is available online now as an open-access document.

To learn more:
- take a look at this CMIO story
- read the full AMIA position statement in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (.pdf)
- see this AMIA press release