Electronic health records, or EHRs, have been promoted a great deal over the past decade. Considered a solution to the problems that result when doctors don’t talk to each other about their patients, EHRs have been gaining ground. The use of electronic medical records was also included in the Affordable Care Act; “meaningful use” of EHRs needed to be demonstrated by the beginning of 2014. Financial incentives to convert the traditional paper record-keeping to EHRs were also part of the law.
Therefore, high-tech EHR companies quickly sprang up. Many of them are reputable organizations that do their job as they should. However, one company in Westborough, Massachusetts, eClinicalWorks, had the whistle blown on them and ended up settling in May, 2017, for $155 million. The settlement amount represents over one-third of their annual revenue.
The Allegations Against eClinicalWorks
One of the country’s biggest EHR vendors, eClinicalWorks had a False Claims Act suit brought against it for supposedly misrepresenting the EHR software’s capabilities. The Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed that the company’s software did not properly list critical information such as medications and lab reports for millions of patients across the country. It was also alleged that the company violated the anti-kickback laws because it improperly paid some customers to promote its EHR product under its “customer referral program.” Additionally, the deficiencies of eClinicalWorks supposedly resulted in health care providers’ submitting false claims for certain “incentive payments.”
Electronic health records systems have a long list of federal requirements they need to meet. The DOJ claimed that eClinicalWorks manipulated their software so as to obtain certification under false pretenses. The company also allegedly did not live up to their obligations to share patient data with other companies’ EHR systems. Sharing data across different systems is a critical component needed to ensure seamless transition of patients’ records from one software system’s provider to the next.
The End Result
With the recent settlement, allegations contained in a suit filed by a whistleblower in the District of Vermont were resolved. Brendan Delaney, who brought the qui tam suit, formerly worked for the New York City Division of Health Care Access and Improvement as a software technician. Subsequently, the federal government intervened in the case, and the whistleblower was awarded roughly $30 million from the settlement.
Denying any wrongdoing, eClinicalWorks has stated that it cooperated with the investigation and settled the case to avoid litigation costs. The company continues to insist that its “customer referral program” was legal. Nevertheless, it has discontinued the program. EClinicalWorks employs over 5,000 persons and reported revenue of $444 million for 2016.
Colette G. Matzzie, one of the lawyers who represented the whistleblower, said, “I think this will be a very significant development for the electronic health records industry. I think the entire industry will take notice of this announced settlement.”
Making a difference.
If you think you have the facts needed to bring a whistleblower case, the experienced whistleblower attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm can review your case and help you file the appropriate disclosure statement. Under some circumstances, the government will intervene, or join in your lawsuit.
Your chances of succeeding are greater if your whistleblower claim is substantive, clear, and to the point. Because of this, meeting with a qualified whistleblower attorney can increase your chances of winning. The Louthian Law Firm can help you form your claim so that the government will be more inclined to intervene in your case; government intervention can sometimes increase the chances of recovering reward money. Even if the government decides not to intervene, it could still be a good idea to pursue your case without government involvement. Our strong support system can assist you through every step of the process.
For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at 1-803-454-1200 or, if you prefer, you can fill out our online contact form.