Texas Health backtracks on statement that Epic EHR led to release of Ebola patient

An electronic health record flaw did not account for the misdiagnosis of an Ebola patient at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, according to a clarification by the hospital published Friday afternoon.

The hospital uses Wisconsin-based Epic as its EHR vendor. 

The day before, the hospital released a statement that said the nurse attending to Thomas Eric Duncan recorded that he had visited Africa in the hospital's EHR system, but the information was not displayed in the physician's EHR view of the system.

Duncan was sent home from the hospital despite having the Ebola virus.

In the clarification, released about 24 hours after the statement, the hospital said the travel history was documented and available to the full team in the EHR.

"There was no flaw in the EHR in the way the physician and nursing portions interacted related to this event," according to the statement. It did not give an alternate explanation as to why Duncan was sent home.

Epic reportedly emailed news outlets calling their attention to the hospital's retraction statement. Politico reports that an Epic spokesman emailed the news outlet a link to the statement, but said that "suggesting they hushed the hospital due a contract gag clause--common in many Epic contracts--is 'overestimating their power.'" Epic said the mishap was "not a software issue," the article notes.

The hospital also said, in the original statement, that after the discovery of the flaw it relocated the travel history documentation so that it would be part of both work flows in the EHR, as well as modified to specifically reference Ebola-endemic regions in Africa.

"We have made this change to increase the visibility and documentation of the travel question in order to alert all providers," according to the first statement.

Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush, meanwhile, blamed health IT culture for the error. Bush told CNBC that, typically, when problems like the flaw in Texas Health's EHR system are fixed, "they're fixed only at the place where they appeared" and that such mistakes happen "constantly."

Bush, who spoke to CNBC before the hospital's reversal, stressed he was not blaming Texas Health or Epic for the breakdown in communication.

To learn more:
- read the originial statement
- read the clarification
- here's the CNBC interview

Related Articles:
EHR flaw may have led to release of Ebola patient from hospital
Dallas Ebola fumble highlights need for better electronic documentation
Nurses: U.S. hospitals not prepared for Ebola patients
Dallas hospital missed chance to contain Ebola
AMA framework looks to improve EHR usability