Madison, Wis. – Following weeks of blistering criticism of its electronic medical record system and its ongoing installation at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Madison’s Epic Systems Corp. has joined the subsidiary of Kaiser Permanente in defending its product.
Epic Systems, a medical software developer, says it is very proud of the Kaiser installation and its electronic records system, which Kaiser has re-branded with the name KP HealthConnect.
The controversy began several weeks ago when Justen Deal, a Los Angeles-based Kaiser Permanente employee, drew attention to implementation problems. His concerns have received widespread media coverage.
Katie O’Brien, an Epic spokeswoman, said the prospect of further media coverage prompted the company to break its silence.
“Epic is proud of its work on Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect,” O’Brien said. “There was a great deal of misinformation about Epic’s role in the project, and we wanted to make sure the facts were corrected in the event additional stories developed in the future.”
What’s the Deal?
According to Epic, the software is designed to help Kaiser standardize the practice of medicine across its eight regions, create better access to patient data, improve safety and efficacy of care, and become the largest single research source in the nation. Even though both companies maintain the original system is live and aggressively being rolled-out, Deal has issued a devastating critique.
Deal, a project supervisor who has been relentless in his criticism, recently sent an e-mail to Kaiser employees, questioning the wisdom of continuing with what he believes is a failed implementation. He cited reliability and scalability problems with HealthConnect, and claimed that internal projections show the company could lose $7 billion over the next two years.
Deal has been placed on leave, but has maintained a website (www.fixkp.org) outlining steps he has taken to alert company officials. One of his allegations is that the decision to purchase Epic software was made due to conflicts of interest on the part of former CIO Clifford Dodd, who recently resigned, and current CEO George Halvorson, who was with the Minnesota-based HealthPartners when it selected Epic’s medical records software.
Matthew Schiffgens, a Kaiser spokesman, said Dodd’s departure is not connected with KP HealthConnect, noting that Bruce Turksta, vice president and program director of HealthConnect, has been named interim CIO.
Schiffgens said a company review of Deal’s claims found them to be unsubstantiated, and that Kaiser is proceeding with full implementation of HealthConnect, which comes with a project budget of $3 billion. “We expect to have it implemented within the scope of the full project timetable,” he said, adding that those timelines call for full implementation in outpatient settings in 2008 and in its 24 hospitals by 2009.
Kaiser has made available a 722-page internal report, outlining issues with its network performance, including router failures and interface slowdowns, which have caused outages and downtime.
Kaiser also took the step of sending a letter to its fellow Epic clients. In the letter, signed by Louise Liang, senior vice president of quality and clinical systems support for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and Andy Wiesenthal, associate medical director of the Permanente Federation, the company said it may be difficult to “separate one person’s viewpoint from fact.”
The letter concluded as follows: “We have always been honest and forthcoming regarding our success, as well as the challenges we have faced and overcome. We would like to reassure you that these challenges are not atypical for an IT implementation of our size and scope, and we remain confident in the reliability and scalability of the Epic product to help us care for our 8.6 million members.”