EHR vendor contracts becoming less provider-friendly

Warning: Be careful before you sign that contract for an electronic health record system. Vendor contracts are becoming more one-sided and difficult, according to EHR consultant Ron Sterling in a blog post on HITECH Answers this week. 

Most vendors, according to Sterling, are much larger and more sophisticated than their provider customers; as a result, their contracts are all about protecting the vendors, not the products' users. 

"EHR contracts contain an increasing array of complicating structures and dense terms that offer fewer and fewer commitments to your practice," Sterling said. 

Several unfair legal provisions that have become more prevalent in EHR contracts according to Sterling include: 

  • No warranties on products: The EHR system is sold as-is. The vendor has no obligation to fix software or other problems or to maintain product relevancy.
  • Required user indemnification: Users now often are required to hold the vendor harmless for risks that arise from use of an EHR system, according to Sterling.
  • No HIPAA guarantees: Some vendors won't attest that their EHR systems comply with HIPAA's privacy and security requirements and/or that the system is certified for Meaningful Use.
  • Separate contracts for different systems: A vendor may require a provider to sign one contract for its EHR system and another for its patient portal. However, the contracts may conflict with each other; the vendor may even refuse to reconcile them and "disavow responsibility" for interfaces between the two products.
  • Overbroad confidentiality requirements: Such requirements bar providers from sharing the EHR with non-employee contractors or prospective physicians.

Potential EHR purchasers are advised by Sterling to read all vendor contracts carefully, and to obtain outside help as necessary. Failure to do so, he said, could be a costly proposition for the provider both financially and with regard to patient care. One bright spot, according to Sterling: Vendors often are willing to accommodate such issues in order to obtain provider business.

To learn more:
- read Sterling's post