3 keys to protecting your hospital in an IT vendor dispute

It's too easy for hospitals--especially small facilities with little IT expertise--to rely too heavily on vendor experts to help them get their new technology up and running. And that can end badly, as 25-bed Girard Medical Center in Kansas illustrated in its dispute with Cerner.

To that end, Michael Dagley, an attorney with Nashville-based Bass, Berry & Simsan who specializes in software disputes, offers advice on protecting your hospital in disputes with vendors when the technology doesn't perform as promised, in a recent Becker's Hospital CIO post.

Dagley served as lead counsel for Minot, North Dakota-based Trinity Health, according to the Becker's post, which in December was awarded more than $106 million in its arbitration claim against Cerner for problems related to a patient-billing system.

Among Dagley's advice:

  • Document everything, including specifics of conversations: Designate someone at vendor meetings to take detailed notes, and save all notes and related materials
  • Incorporate all marketing promises in the contract: Make sure the contract includes performance measures for those promises, as well
  • Make sure the contract lays out consequences of not delivering on marketing promises: Vendors have been successful in limiting hospitals' recovery to the price of the software, so it's vital to include repercussions, including early termination of the software

The guidebook, "EHR Contracts: Key Contract Terms for Users to Understand," from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, identifies seven provisions commonly found in vendor contracts. It addresses not only patient safety, but also business terms and economic factors such as intellectual property disputes, indemnification and wind-down provisions.

It's vital to clarify who owns the data, for example, when a dispute arises, as Milwaukee Health Services found out the hard way. It sued Business Computer Applications (BCA) to regain access to the records of 40,000 patients after BCA cut the community health center off when its contract expired.

To learn more:
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