Vendors, this is your wake-up call

I just re-read a BusinessWeek story from about a month ago and was shocked to read the following passage:

Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa., wanted all that when it spent $35 million to purchase and install software from Epic Systems, a large vendor in Verona, Wis. But in June 2005, during a pilot run of a computerized order-entry system at Geisinger’s flagship medical center, errors began appearing at a rate of several a week in the hospital’s psychiatric unit. “The pharmacy would interpret an order as one drug at one dosage, and the patients were ordered the wrong medications at different dosages,” recalls Jean Adams, a nurse in charge of the IT team. Fortunately, astute staffers discovered the problem after a few weeks and began verifying the computer drug orders using the phone. Full implementation of the Epic system was put on hold. Adams says Geisinger traced the trouble to incompatibility between a common pharmacy database and Epic’s system.

Epic CEO Judith Faulkner says the episode at Geisinger, and similar incidents at other hospitals, taught her company that physician orders and pharmacy records cannot use distinct technologies. “It doesn’t work when you mix and match vendors,” Faulkner says. “It has to be one system, or it can be dangerous for patients.”

Am I right in interpreting this to mean that Judy Faulkner believes that the inability to integrate systems is a risk to patient safety? Really?

This shouldn’t have to be a warning to customers that they should only buy from one vendor. This should be a wake-up call to vendors that they had better start cooperating with each other.

As an American taxpayer, I don’t want my money spent on systems that can’t interface and can’t interoperate. That’s not “meaningful use.” It sounds more like blackmail by a vendor.