Electronic health records (EHR) vendor eClinicalWorks now faces a second class action lawsuit in a little over a month as continued fallout from allegations that the company’s software does not meet Meaningful Use requirements.
One month after a class action lawsuit was filed in New York alleging that electronic health records vendor eClinicalWorks failed “millions of patients by failing to maintain the integrity of patients’ records,” the EHR vendor is facing another class action lawsuit filed by two physician practices.
The latest lawsuit adds to the legal problems faced by the company since last June when eClinicalWorks agreed to pay $155 million to resolve a False Claims Act lawsuit and settle allegations that it violated federal law by misrepresenting the capabilities of its software. In the False Claims Act lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Justice also alleged that eClinicalWorks paid kickbacks to certain customers in exchange for promoting its product.
The Justice Department charged that the Westborough, Mass.-based EHR vendor “falsely obtained that certification for its EHR software when it concealed from its certifying entity that its software did not comply with the requirements for certification.” And, the DOJ alleged in its compliant that, as a result of the deficiencies in eClinicalWorks’ software, providers using eClinicalWorks’ software submitted false claims for federal incentive payments.
In the lawsuit filed in November, Kristina Tot, as an administrator of the estate of Stjepan Tot, alleges that the class action was brought against eClinicalWorks for its “breach of fiduciary duty and gross negligence in failing to provide, secure and safeguard accurate and reliable health information of patients throughout the United States and for falsely representing that its software complied with requirements for payment of incentives under the Meaningful Use program.”
In the second lawsuit, primary care physicians in two different states assert that eClinicalWorks software and services do not achieve Meaningful Use standards, as guaranteed by the vendor. Carrollton Family Clinic in Mississippi and Perrin Curran, M.D., who practices at Primary Health Partners in Southern California, contend in their class action suit that the deficiencies in eClinicalWorks’ software cost them government reimbursement. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts.
“[eClinicalWorks]’s software failed to live up to [eClinicalWorks]’s promises and guarantees, and its statements about its software’s current compliance with the certification criteria of the Meaningful Use program were outright false,” the complaint states.
eClinicalWorks spokesman Bhakti Shah said in an emailed statement, “We have reviewed the complaint and believe that the allegations are wholly without merit. eClinicalWorks’ software has been continuously certified for use in connection with the Meaningful Use program since the program was created, and tens of thousands of eClinicalWorks users have demonstrated meaningful use and successfully attested and received incentives. eClinicalWorks plans to vigorously defend itself against these allegations.
In the suit, Carrollton Family Clinic says in deciding to use eClinicalWorks’ software, the practice relied on the company’s receipt of certifications from accredited certification bodies as an assurance that its software satisfied the certification criteria of the Meaningful Use program. “ECW gave Carrollton Family Clinic no reason to suspect that ECW had made false statements to obtain its certifications,” the suit stated.
Further, the suit alleges, “Had Carrollton Family Practice known that ECW’s software did not in fact satisfy the requirements of the Meaningful Use program, it would not have contracted with ECW and would not have made payments to ECW under the contract.” And the suit alleges that the practices suffered from the defects. “In 2017, Carrollton Family Clinic planned to apply for a Meaningful Use incentive payment based on its use of ECW, but was informed by a representative of the Mississippi Division of Medicaid that ECW would not enable her to attest to the meaningful use of certified EHR software because ECW did not perform formulary checks itself and required Carrollton Family Clinic to go through a separate process to verify those checks."
Both practices allege that eClinicalWorks provided written guidance on the steps to take to successfully attest for a Meaningful Use incentive payment using the vendor’s software, and that the practices relied on this written guidance.
In the suit, Dr. Curran alleges that in February 2012, he and his partners in Primary Health Partners submitted an attestation of Meaningful Use based on their vision of eClinicalWorks software and the practice received an $18,000 incentive payment. According to the suit, in the fall of 2015, Curran’s 2011 attestation for a Meaningful Use incentive payment was audited by the government. “When Dr. Curran attempted to generate an audit log to verify certain information in his 2011 attestation, ECW’s software would not generate an audit log. As a result of the software’s failure to generate an audit log, Dr. Curran failed his audit and the government required him to return $18,000,” the suit states.
The lawsuit also states, “As a result of ECW’s fraudulent representations and fraudulent omissions, plaintiffs were induced into contracts that they otherwise would not have made and suffered financial injury, harm and damages.”