In the Feb. 7 Healthcare IT News article, Diana Manos elaborates on comments made by Farzad Mostashari, MD, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. His comments came at a meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee. In these comments, Mostashari eluded to the unfair practices of some EHR vendors. He also threatened increased governmental regulations to control those practices if they continue.
I do agree there are vendors and consulting firms in our sector that see a dollar as more important than “doing what is best for the client.” That has plagued HIT for as long as there has been HIT. Since ARRA and HITECH, this issue has grown. Any sector that sees the business growth HIT has had over the last couple of years, draws the attention of people that see dollars instead of opportunity to make a difference and impact our healthcare system overall. This is not new but might be more prolific than in the past. Mostashari focused on vendors that use unfair “data lock-ins,” contract language that has a chilling effect on clients changing vendors and false claims of interrupted reporting abilities as examples of these unethical but legal practices. In response, he said regulations might be what is required to fix this issue.
My question is why would the regulatory process be required? As consumers of vendor and consulting firm services, the power rest with the client. If a vendor or consulting firm is clearly looking only for the almighty dollar and does not have a genuine priority of doing what is best for the client, why would its services be purchased? As consumers, we all have the ability to set the standards we expect by what we choose to purchase and what we choose not to purchase. Since there are vendors and consulting firms that clearly have the best intention for their clients, there are other options instead of purchasing services from one that is only driven by the profit. More regulations are not needed. These vendors and firms can only take advantage of someone when the client signs the contract agreeing to those terms.
In today’s market where so many mergers are occurring, where vendors and consulting firms are becoming behemoths in the HIT market, these practices of putting profits in front of customers will only increase. Using vendors and consulting firms that have resisted this trend to merge so they can continue to focus on each individual client’s needs becomes critical to stopping the growth of unfair practices that put the dollar above the needs of the client. Use your pen to send a message to create the standards you want to see become the norm. Every signature on a contract sends a message to our industry.