Exec quits over patient safety concerns weeks before Epic go-live; hospital fires back that EHR will be safe

A whistleblower blog claims many other executives within the NYC Health + Hospitals EHR project are deeply concerned. But NYC H+H claims the electronic health record software will be ready by implementation.
By Bill Siwicki
11:05 AM
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New York Health + Hospitals Queens

Charles Perry, MD, resigned from his CMIO post at Queens and Elmhurst Hospital Centers in New York on March 4 reportedly with the dire warning that a planned April 1 Epic EHR implementation could lead to patient harm, even death. But the organization that runs Queens and Elmhurst, NYC Health + Hospitals, just countered that there is no cause for concern.

“The idea that we’d jeopardize patients to meet a deadline is simply wrong – if a patient safety issue is identified, the project will stop until it is addressed,” a NYC Health + Hospitals spokesman told Healthcare IT News. “NYC Health + Hospitals and its Epic implementation experts have assembled a team of about 900 technicians who will work around-the-clock through the week surrounding the transition in both Queens and at remote data centers to ensure we shift to the new system as smoothly as possible.”

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The plot thickens even more on a website titled “Whistleblower NYC Health + Hospitals” with just two blog posts that include a purported e-mail exchange between a variety of NYC Health + Hospital executives, including Perry and sent to NYC Health + Hospitals CIO Sal Guido and CMIO Alfred Garofalo.

“After years of delay, skyrocketing costs and innumerable layoffs, NYC Health + Hospitals is on track to create the most expensive IT project boondoggle in New York City history,” writes the anonymous whistleblower(s). “At approximately $1 billion of cost overrun and years of delay, H+H top officials’ mismanagement of the new electronic medical record installation represents a depraved betrayal of the trust placed in them by all New Yorkers. Even more lamentable, the excessive costs are the least of the concerns – H+H officials are needlessly introducing grave patient safety risks in a desperate effort to meet an arbitrary April 1 implementation deadline set by the Mayor’s Office.”

The original e-mail, dated February 17, outlines concerns in five areas: cut-over planning, downtime planning, service-level agreements, application support plans and e-prescribing.

“Facility clinical and executive leadership has an obligation to review plans to support patient safety and minimize operational risk, suggest modifications as necessary, and then make supportive preparations to align with those plans,” the purported e-mail said.

Far more important than asking whether the EHR will go live on April 1 is asking should it go live on that date, the whistleblower wrote on the blog.

“The clear answer is no, not until patient safety concerns are adequately addressed, something which cannot happen in the next three weeks, and will never happen if current H+H officials and consultants are left unchecked,” wrote the whistleblower, who goes into great detail about the project. “Anyone who has worked on complex implementation projects knows that many significant, and unforeseen, issues inevitably arise. The first step is tackling those issues head-on instead of trying to hide them. The necessary hard work is partnering with all stakeholders, and driving together toward a solution.”

NYC Health + Hospitals president Ramanathan Raju, MD, who reportedly is under pressure from City Hall to launch the EHR on time, has informed colleagues on multiple occasions that his job is on the line if the April 1 deadline is not met, the New York Post has reported.

According to New York Post reports, NYC Health + Hospitals insiders have said that a crash of the EHR is almost inevitable because it has not been set up to operate with other, external, disparate information systems as well as internal billing software. Further, the reports said current patient data from the existing systems still must be migrated to the new EHR, a task that can take months to complete.

“Sooner or later, [the EHR] will crash [and] there will be patient harm – patient harm and patient death,” according to one New York Post source.

Perry told Healthcare IT News he has no comment.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT

Topics: 
EHRs