Brendan Delaney got a job implementing a computer system at the Rikers Island jail complex to make dealing with health records easier. Instead, he became a whistleblower after he saw how dangerous the system was.

Delaney, an electronic health records (EHR) system expert, said the software from eClinicalWorks (eCW) was responsible for tens of thousands of record errors. And all those errors in only one year for an inmate population of just 100,000. The software provider paid a record $155 million settlement for violating the False Claims Act. And since errors caused by software could count as medical malpractice, hefty personal lawsuits followed soon after.

Exceptional mistakes

EHR systems are supposed to streamline the medical process, but faulty software could lead to many concerns for medical malpractice:

  • Lab errors: According to the case, physicians ordered nearly 2,000 medical tests. But because the main system couldn’t communicate with the specialized software in the lab, the tests were never actually conducted.
  • Medication mix-ups: Attending practitioners entered around 30,000 prescriptions that lacked start and stop dates, according to Delaney. This means incompatible doses may have overlapped, or patients could have received too much or not enough of the drug the physicians told them to take.
  • Crossing records: You couldn’t count on the medications listed, either. Delaney stated that if someone entered special notes into the system, they could show up on the file of a different patient while at the same time canceling out warnings for conflicting medications.

eCW paid the largest settlement ever seen in the courts that oversaw the case, but that hasn’t proven to be their death knell. The company still provides software to 850,000 health professionals across the country, making them one of the largest EHR suppliers in the U.S.