Kaiser to Put Records Online for $1.8 Billion

The Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required) is reporting that HMO Kaiser Permanente is going to be spending $1.8 billion to ‘put the medical records of its 8.4 million patients online…’ with proprietary vendor Epic Systems. $1.8 billion? Whew! Perhaps they haven’t heard of Free/Open Source software like VistA. Per the article, Kaiser has 8.4 million patients. That comes out to $214 per patient which seems rather pricey. Especially in view of what they don’t get: portability outside of Kaiser, standardization of interface outside of Kaiser, 3rd party verification of confidentiality or clinical process, any ownership at all of source code and single point of failure by relying on one vendor. I suppose it is progress over a paper record if they can pull it off.

Turmoil in the Proprietary World

According to this article in the Kansas City Business Journal (free registration required) there’s a turf war brewing between Cerner and rival Meditech if a proposed purchase of Health Midwest to HCA occurs: ‘… Cerner has a 10-year relationship with Health Midwest, which was the medical software provider’s first significant client… But that relationship between two of the largest health care players in Kansas City is threatened if HCA takes over Health Midwest…That’s because HCA uses a Cerner competitor for all of its data record-keeping and medical software needs…’ Oops. In other news, according to the Palm Beach Post, Eclipsys founder and Chairman Harvey Wilson has resigned amid problems with overstating earnings: ‘… Wilson and two other top Eclipsys executives have been accused in a class-action shareholder lawsuit of intentionally issuing misleading earnings forecasts…’ Eclipsys is a major vendor of clinical computing software. Both of these real-world events show how vulnerable medical software is to corporate difficulties. If a changeover occurs from Cerner to Meditech, how many difficulties will this cause? How much time and money wasted? How many deaths or complications from un-familiar software? Isn’t it time to separate the software from the organization that services it?