Multimillion dollar lawsuit in Ithaca may have been avoided with EMR

While hospitals and small medical facilities across the country are adopting technology to improve the caliber of care their patients receive, Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, New York, was recently held accountable for a settlement of more than $3 million for an oversight that could likely have been avoided through the deployment of electronic medical records software.

Interestingly, the malfeasance began innocently when the hospital engaged in the legal practice of drawing doctors to the region by providing these professionals with financial incentives they could use to start private practices and as guaranteed base income, according to reports.

Even when new regulations changed the legality behind these recruitment practices in 2004, according to an article in The Ithaca Journal, Cayuga Medical's president and chief executive Rob Mackenzie mentioned the hospital assumed its recruitment contracts were in line with new laws after a compliance check.

However, during an internal audit in 2007, the hospital discovered it was in violation of practices that prohibit hospitals from recruiting doctors who will work in the same community and refer patients (most notably those on Medicare and Medicaid) to the hospital for laboratory work, CAT scans, MRIs and any other services provided by that hospital, reports state.

Consequently, in order to avoid a messy litigation process, Mackenzie reportedly settled for $3.5 million out of court.

However, one of the most interesting aspects of this case is that none of the applied sanctions were the result of criminal charges, indicating that the settlement was a result of an honest and avoidable case of negligence and poor book keeping.

Had Cayuga Medical used its resources to hire a certified consulting service to implement EMR and medical billing software as well as train staff on the software's proper use, the hospital may have been able to avoid their non-compliance and start the new year with several million extra in the black.

Microwize Technology is a leading healthcare IT consultant offering products such as electronic medical records software and medical billing software from top providers like Allscripts and McKesson, including McKesson's Medisoft, Lytec andPractice Choice products.