eClinicalWorks hit with second class-action suit, charged with 'deceptive' practices

Plaintiffs say they had to forfeit meaningful use incentive payments in 2014 and lost out on more money in 2017 because EHR did not meet requirements, though eClinicalWorks says the claims are without merit.
By Tom Sullivan
01:05 PM
eClinicalWorks lawsuit

EHR vendor eClinicalWorks has been charged in a new legal suit that aims to both recover damages and obtain restitution for what the plaintiffs allege is fraud and breach of contract relating to the vendor’s EHR offering, according to a document Healthcare IT News obtained on Wednesday.

An eClinicalWorks spokesperson said that the allegations are without merit.

That document names eClinicalWorks as the defendant and Carrollton Family Clinic and Perrin Curran, MD, as partner in Primary Health Partners, as the plaintiff and it lists Kara White, a registered nurse practitioner, as the sole member of CFC. It also describes the proposed class of potential plaintiffs as those who “actually relied upon ECW’s statements that its software did and would satisfy the certification criteria of the Meaningful Use program,” which could be anyone who paid eClinicalWorks to use its software between Jan.14, 2010 and May 30, 2017 — the day before eClinicalWorks $155 million False Claims Act settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice was first reported.

[Also: Lawyer: Class action suit against eClinicalWorks will 'make it right' for customers]

That original False Claims suit charged the EHR vendor with adding 16 drug codes necessary for meaningful use certification straight into its software instead of equipping the product to access those via a qualified database. It also said eClinicalWorks did not conduct drug-to-drug interaction checks, satisfy data portability criteria, record users audit logs or diagnostic imaging orders.

Some of those issues also pertain to Carrollton Family Clinic. The new suit alleges that eClinicalWorks engaged in deceptive trade practices that caused the plaintiffs and the proposed class to suffer a loss of money by paying inflated prices for eClinicalWorks’ products, which caused Carrollton to renew its contract with eClinicalWorks instead of switching to a competitor.

Specifically, Curran had to forfeit $18,000 in meaningful use incentives it had already collected after attesting for a reporting period spanning Sept. 1, 2011 through Dec. 26, 2011. 

[Also: New Year's resolution: Dust off that EHR contract to make sure you're as protected as you think]

“In 2017, CFC 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 CFC to go through a separate process to verify those checks,” according to the document.

The suit also alleges that eClinicalWorks caused the “plaintiffs and the proposed class to expend out-of-pocket expenses, time, and other resources to cure or cope with the many deficiencies in ECW’s software.”

Specifically, the document listed those deficiencies as eClinicalWorks software failing to meet meaningful use Stage 2 criteria to automatically and reliably perform drug formulary checks or preferred drug lists for patients as required under Stage 2 of meaningful use.

“Had CFC 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.”

In response to a request for comment, eClincalWorks spokesperson Bhakti Shah wrote: “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 wake of the May settlement, one practice claimed that eClinicalWorks was holding its patient data hostage. The False Claims settlement also mandated that eClinicalWorks had to offer free upgrades to its existing clients or transfer customer data to rival EHR vendors should they elect to do so.

The EHR maker was charged in mid-November with a first class-action suit seeking one dollar less than $1 billion by the estate of a cancer patient claiming that he died because “he was unable to determine reliably when his first symptoms of cancer appeared [as] his medical records failed to accurately display his medical history on progress notes.”

[Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article failed to include Kara White of Carrollton Family Clinic among the plaintiffs. The above is now corrected.]

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