By Hannah Nelson
A Georgia law firm has raised federal information blocking concerns regarding EHR vendor MEDITECH, Doctors Hospital of Augusta (DHA), and records staffing firm Ciox Health, according to reporting from Law.com.
Lloyd Bell of Bell Law Firm confirmed that a formal communication has been sent from his office to the office of Elise Anthony, executive director of the Office of Policy at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) regarding what he said appears to have been an instance of information blocking in violation of the 21st Century Cures Act.
The letter is based off an incident regarding the care of Dorothy Anthony, whom Bell Law Firm represents.
Anthony has Downs Syndrome and was admitted to DHA. During her stay, Anthony developed a stage four pressure wound on her sacral area.
Stage four wounds go all the way down to the bone and often resist healing and lead to chronic, life-threatening infections as well as pain and disability.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) generally regard hospital-acquired stage three or four pressure wounds as an indication of negligent care.
Anthony’s sister, who serves as her legal guardian, called on the law firm to investigate whether Anthony had suffered medical negligence.
Anthony’s sister requested medical records from DHA, which uses a MEDITECH EHR system. DHA produced the records in a format that deleted all the embedded electronic text data. DHA also produced the records with reduced image quality, the firm stated.
Bell Law Firm requested the records again, specifically asking for the information in a PDF-text format that preserved the embedded electronic text data.
The law firm said DHA again produced the records in a format that deleted all the electronic text data. DHA also reportedly produced records with degraded image quality again, making optical character recognition useless.
DHA and MEDITECH declined to state clearly whether the systems implemented at DHA allow for the full EHR record in a text-based pdf file. When asked for a clear, explicit answer, the EHR vendor told the law firm that the firm should subpoena MEDITECH.
“The letter to ONC raises an important question for every Doctors Hospital patient — and beyond that, every patient whose medical records are kept in a Meditech system: Does Meditech’s EHR system lack the elementary functionality to export EHR into a readable electronic format?” Bell told Law.com.
“If the systems are unable to produce such basic records, then Meditech’s EHR systems may be improperly certified as meeting ONC criteria, and if Meditech’s EHR system does possess this basic functionality, then DHA has engaged in information blocking and violated 45 CFR 164.524 by refusing to honor a ‘form and format’ request to preserve electronic data,” he continued. “It’s one or the other.”
The letter to ONC concludes with a request that ONC investigate this issue and take appropriate action.
MEDITECH stated its policy is not to comment on legal issues surrounding its customers.