Providers, vendors must take responsibility for their actions

We tell our kids to own up to their missteps and correct them. But too many adults don't seem to follow the same advice, blaming others for their own errors and failing in some instances to even acknowledge their accountability, let alone step up to the plate and fix it.

Unfortunately, the healthcare industry is not immune from this problem. In recent weeks we've seen a rash of these instances.

First, there's the Ohio physician who moved offices but left behind a computer containing the records of thousands of patients. He denied that the patients' information could be compromised, claiming that it was safe and the computer was password protected--even though, apparently, the records are easily accessible.

Then there's Coupeville, Wash.-based Whidbey General Hospital, which, according to the South Whidbey Record, is blaming the Affordable Care Act for requiring it to purchase an EHR system and causing delays in billings, which drastically reduced the amount of cash it has available. The hospital evidently also blames the Affordable Care Act for having to pay for an EHR upgrade or incur penalties plus lost Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. Note it doesn't blame itself for not anticipating implementation and cash flow issues, despite considerable publicity about other hospitals' woes in this regard.

It's unclear whether it's the hospital or the news outlet confusing the much-maligned Affordable Care Act with the HITECH Act, the real law that created the Meaningful Use program that the hospital is alluding to here. But at least they're acknowledging the existence of the problems, even while absolving themselves of any responsibility. Look at Montana's MountainView Medical Center, which is suing NextGen for failing to provide it with the certified EHR it ordered to comply with the Meaningful Use program. MountainView says it had already paid NextGen $441,000. According to news reports, NextGen wouldn't admit that the system failed to meet the Meaningful Use requirements; the hospital, instead, found that out through court documents. In the meantime, not a peep from NextGen.

I can relate, although luckily, I'm not out $441,000.

While traveling last fall, my connecting flight from Montreal to Baltimore via Toronto was canceled by a Canadian airline due to mechanical trouble, stranding my traveling group in Toronto overnight.

While these things certainly happen, I promptly filed a form with the airline for reimbursement for the expenses incurred; I have followed up every month since, by email and phone, but have yet to receive a substantive response, let alone the recompense I'm entitled to. As a result, the airline already stands in violation of regulations and its own contract of carriage.

A business that suffers a breakdown--whether communicational, mechanical, or operational--needs to own up to it and assume responsibility. This is one of the major concerns about EHRs and patient safety. If providers and vendors can't even be accountable when the damage is merely financial, what will happen when EHR-related issues cause patient harm?     

Let's set a better example for the children. - Marla (@MarlaHirsch @FierceHealthIT)

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