Loyalty is a funny thing. You’d think that when a vendor let you down spectacularly, you wouldn’t do business with them anymore. But the truth is, when it comes to health IT it’s not that simple. In many cases, vendor-customer relationships are more like marriages than formal agreements. Even if things start to go south, customers have so much invested in their vendor relationship that backing out may not seem like a realistic possibility.
Yes, I’m pontificating here, but not without a point. What I’m responding to here is a recent KLAS survey which found that while many customers of the now-tarnished eClinicalWorks have lost confidence in the company, many are still on board for now.
As many readers will know, in May eCW settled a whistleblower suit against the company for $155 million. The suit, which was brought by the US Department of Justice, asserted that the vendor got certified for incentive payments by putting deceptive kludges in place.
After agreeing to pay a massive penalty to the feds and putting a “Coprrporate Integrity Agreement” in place, it’s little wonder that some customers don’t trust eCW anymore. But the reality of the situation is that they’re not exactly free to jump ship either.
The study, which was reported on in HIT Consultant, found that 66% of customers polled by KLAS said their perception of eCW had moderately or significantly worsened after the settlement. Meanwhile, 34% of current eCW customers plan to look elsewhere when they make their next health IT investment.
Another third of respondents said they felt stuck in their current eCW contract, though they would consider switching vendors when the contract expires or they have more resources to invest. Still, only 4% of KLAS respondents said they were leaving specifically because of the settlement.
Meanwhile, there’s apparently a subset of eCW customers who aren’t that worried about the settlement or its implications. One-third of respondents said that it had little impact on them, and some noted that eCW is probably just the first of many vendors whose meaningful use certification will be called into question.
The reality is that while eCW customers were a bit shaken by the settlement, it didn’t exactly come as a shock that the vendor was playing it close to the edge, with one-fifth noting that the settlement was “unsurprising.”
I would tend to side with the eCW customers who predict that this settlement is the tip of the iceberg, and that it’s likely to come out that other health IT vendors were gaming the certification process. The question is whether these settlements will merely inconvenience providers or lead to serious problems of their own. If the feds ever decide that providers should have known about faked certifications, the game will get a lot more complicated.