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Did Medical Software Cost a Woman Her Life?


In 2012, a woman who suffers from migraines goes into see her doctor complaining of unusual pain. The doctor runs some tests, but nothing happens. Two months later, the woman is dead. The family sues Stowe Family Practice which is a federally qualified health care center. They accused Stowe Family Practice of failing to diagnose an aneurysm until it was too late.

U.S. Attorney Owen Foster was called in to defend the government against the lawsuit. Foster discovered that the doctor had, in fact, considered an aneurysm and ordered a head scan through the practice’s software to confirm or rule out the diagnosis. The test would have very likely shown bleeding in the woman’s brain and the doctor would have been able to treat the bleed before the blood vessel burst, killing her.

But something went wrong. The order for the test was never sent out. The software, eClinicalWorks (eCW), is one of the most popular digital health care record keeping systems in the country with 850,000 health care centers nationwide using it to store patient records. Foster was on the verge of making a major discovery. The eCW software did not work as well as advertised and there were numerous problems with the company’s hierarchy, legal concerns, and notable complaints pertaining to the software.

Patients Put at Risk 

Foster was about to discover that the eCW record-keeping software had numerous flaws that potentially put patients at risk. In 2011, there was a major whistleblower claim brought to the public’s attention by Brendan Delaney, an electronic health records expert. Delaney was brought on to implement eCW at Rikers Island but found several glitches in the software that formed the basis of a lawsuit that would end up costing eCW $155 million. Among the claims in the lawsuit were:

  • Medication lists weren’t reliable;
  • Prescribed drugs weren’t showing up;
  • Discontinued drugs weren’t being removed;
  • Patient records contained notes made of other patients;
  • Prescriptions lacked proper start and stop dates; and
  • The system did not track lab results reliably.

In 2015, the District of Vermont launched a formal investigation in eCW.

A Poorly Coded Piece of Software 

The investigation found that there were serious problems with the code. Not only was it difficult to read, but it was hard to track down and fix glitches without creating new ones. Not all of the features available to users functioned properly. If drug orders were customized, dangerous interactions would no longer appear to warn doctors about potential problems. The eCW did not use standard codes associated with drugs and lab tests.

Today, this software is still in use by hundreds of thousands of health care facilities across the country, despite the $155M settlement (a record for this kind of claim). It continues to be bankrolled by taxpayer money and it continues to put patients at risk.

Talk to a St. Petersburg Medical Malpractice Attorney Today 

If you’ve been injured by medical negligence, the St. Petersburg medical malpractice attorney at Masterson & Hoag, P.A. can help you recover damages related to your injuries. Talk to us for a free consultation.






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