A controversy has engulfed a large information technology project at Kaiser Permanente, where the executive in charge of the project, J. Clifford Dodd, has resigned.
Dodd, who was chief information/administrative officer and senior vice president for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan/Hospitals, Oakland, Calif., will be replaced in the interim by Bruce Turkstra, vice president and program director of KP HealthConnect, Kaisers $3 billion electronic medical-record program that will connect its 12,000 physicians, 431 medical offices and 30 medical centers.
The announcement last week of Dodds resignation came amid an internal squabble over how an outside vendor was chosen to assist with this massive EMR system, a dispute that became public by way of an e-mail sent to an estimated 180,000 Kaiser workers.
The e-mail, sent Nov. 3 by Justen Deal, a project supervisor in Kaisers health education and training department, warned of $7 billion in losses for the company over the next two years, and criticized George Halvorson, Kaiser chairman and chief executive officer, for choosing Epic Systems Corp. as the chief IT vendor for KP HealthConnect. An official at Epic said this was a Kaiser matter and she deferred comment to them.
Kaiser spokesman Matthew Schiffgens said Dodds resignation had nothing to do with Deals e-mail, and the fact they occurred within days of each other was an accident of timing. He added that Deal brought the same concerns to company officials in August. We very much took his comments seriously, Schiffgens said, adding that Kaiser did not find substantial merit to them.
Turkstra disagreed with Deals assessment that the decision to go with Epic was a unilateral decision by Halvorson, saying it was made after a lengthy review that started with 50 vendors.
Deal, who is on paid administrative leave, did not have many supportive things to say about Dodd in his e-mail to co-workers, but said it would be a crying shame if Dodd was forced out in an effort to deflect criticism of Halvorson.
Kaiser describes KP HealthConnect as the largest civilian EMR project in the U.S., but any problems at the widely watched project arent expected to have a large effect elsewhere, experts said. My general feeling is that its just going to affect Kaiser and not affect the rest of the world, said Richard Rydell, president and executive director of the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems.
Rydell compared it with the impact of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles pulling the plug on its multimillion-dollar computerized physician order-entry system in 2003, after just four months of use. Obviously, people watch Kaiser to see what happens just like when they watched Cedars-Sinai, he said. It impacted people on the verge of making a decision but, overall, I dont think it had much impact.