EHR Replacement Gone Wrong: Who Owns Patient Data?

Jennifer Bresnick | EHR Intelligence | July 23, 2013

What do you do when an EHR contract ends, but the vendor won’t let you access your patients’ data until after a lengthy court battle over a missing bill?  Does a vendor have the right to withhold records for any reason, even if the information is stored in a proprietary format?  Who owns the data?  Those are the questions facing Milwaukee Health Services in Wisconsin after an EHR replacement turned into a tussle between lawyers, with the records of 40,000 patients as the prize.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Milwaukee Health Services (MHS) was seeking to replace the EHR system provided by Business Computer Applications, Inc. (BCA) after their five-year contract ran out in June.  MHS asserts that the BCA system was never fully functional, and that the Atlanta-based company kept requesting money to fix the system with no results.  MHS says it has paid $3.1 million over the length of the contract, but decided to switch EHRs this month after continual dissatisfaction.

BSA, meanwhile, claims that the health system owes $285,000 in unpaid fees, and until they receive the amount due – or a “fair compensation” access fee of $200,000 – they will not allow physicians to view any patient data stored in their system. [...]