Hospital’s struggle illustrates health IT woes

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

The University of California San Francisco Medical Center has written off more than a third of the $50 million it has spent on a system to digitize patients’ medical records, according to an article by AHCJ member Fred Schulte for the Huffington Post Investigative Fund and American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop.

The hospital started the project more than five years ago but after “persistent technical headaches,” it is has terminated the contractor and will start over on part of the project.

The costly setback pointedly illustrates the challenges health professionals face trying to meet a government mandate to bring American medicine into the computer age.

Doctors and technology analysts are less than enthusiastic about products now available. “Early reports from some American and European hospitals, they say, suggest that some technology may prove unreliable and could even pose safety problems for patients.”

While critics are concerned about patient safetly, U.S. manufacturers say no injuries or deaths can be attributed to software failure. However, as Schulte points out, “companies manufacturing health information technology systems are under no obligation to report injuries resulting from software malfunctions to the government.”

Schulte then cites a number of examples that point to failures or problems with software systems.

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