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Problems abound for Kaiser e-health records management system

An internal report details hundreds of technical issues and outages

By Linda Rosencrance
November 13, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - An electronic health records management system being rolled out by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan/Hospitals has been nothing short of an IT project gone awry, according to sources at the company and an internal report detailing problems with the HealthConnect system.

Questions about the project arose last week at about the same time Cliff Dodd, the company's CIO, resigned. Dodd stepped down last Monday after another Kaiser employee, Justen Deal, sent a memo to every company worker warning of technological and financial repercussions related to the rollout of the nearly $4 billion system from Epic Systems Corp.

Deal said he also sent letters to Kaiser management expressing his concerns. But in internal memos, officials said they investigated those concerns and denied that the implementation of the HealthConnect system has been a failure.

"In the implementation of a new, large and complex system such as KP HealthConnect, various technical problems are likely to arise, but none that you mention are unknown to KP-IT nor were as insurmountable as you imply," Mark Zemelman, one of Kaiser's attorneys, said in a letter to Deal.

Kaiser declined to offer specifics about Dodd's resignation and whether questions about the project played a role in his departure. Deal, a publication project supervisor in the Health Education and Training Department at Kaiser Permanente's Los Angeles facility, was placed on paid administrative leave after sending the memo. Deal is not an IT employee, according to Kaiser.

A 722-page internal report obtained by Computerworld details hundreds of technical problems with the system -- some affecting patient care -- that appear to bear out the concerns of Deal and others in the organization that the system is a failure. The report also contains suggestions on how to fix the problems.

In his memo to employees, Deal pointed to reliability and scalability issues Kaiser faces with its HealthConnect system.

When fully implemented, it is supposed to give more than 100,000 of Kaiser's physicians and employees instant access to the medical records of some 8.6 million patients, along with e-messaging capability, computerized order entry and electronic prescribing. In addition, the system is supposed to integrate appointment scheduling, registration and billing functions and will offer various features to Kaiser members through KP.org.

But according to the report, that doesn't seem to be happening with any degree of regularity.

For example, a power outage on May 9 at Kaiser's data center in Corona, Calif., lasted for 55 hours and 7 minutes and affected the ability of numerous health care facilities to access the HealthConnect system. "This outage affected every Kaiser Permanente Region. ... Providers/clinicians across KP would not have access to medical information to treat members, process lab and pharmacy requests, and in some cases were in full down-time modes compromising direct member treatment, with the inability to access current medical information for decision making," according to the report.



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