Q. What should I keep in mind – from a risk management perspective – as I adopt an electronic health record system?
A. Physicians and hospitals continue to transition to electronic health records (EHRs) and a push toward a national health information exchange is intensifying. That means more and more physicians are in the process of reviewing and puzzling over EHR contracts.
What may be overlooked in that process is the future. Physicians often are so relieved to have the analysis, demonstrations, vendor comparison and EHR selection completed, they think the process stops there. But risk management consultants say it shouldn’t.
Experts advise physicians to keep the following thoughts in mind when negotiating a contract with an EHR vendor:
- What happens if the vendor goes out of business or is bought by a larger company? How will you know where your medical record data is transferred and stored, how long it will be stored, and how it will be transferred back to you or perhaps a new vendor? Will you have access to the source code? Will the source code be available if you hire an information technology (IT) consultant to manage it until you select a new system?
- What are the performance specifications and are they built into the request for proposal (RFP) as an exhibit? That may be a good step to include when creating the RFP. Request the specifications be included as an exhibit to the contract. That way, you identify them and have them attached to the contract. If the EHR system fails to meet specifications, the option should exist to terminate the contract.
- Are upgrades included? In other words, will you have to pay for new versions of the system? Will the contract require you to adhere to all upgrades or is it acceptable for you to be a version or two behind? Will future versions require new equipment, new servers?
- Consider warranties. Usually, the warranty would be included with the response to the RFP. If the response is attached to the vendor agreement contract, warranties are included in the agreement. However, if the practice does not employ an RFP process, warranties and penalties should be closely examined as a precaution against the vendor’s failure to perform.
Risk management experts believe it may be a good idea to hire an IT consultant to work with you as you review RFPs and agreements.
Physicians insured by ProAssurance may contact our Risk Management department for prompt answers to liability questions by calling (800) 292-1036 or via email.