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Grassley queries hospitals about IT vendors, ‘gag order' contract clauses

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has sent a letter asking 31 hospitals to report on their relationships with healthcare IT vendors, focusing on errors caused by IT systems and on so-called “gag order or non-disclosure clauses” in vendor contracts that might prohibit the hospitals from disclosing information about system flaws.

Grassley said the hospital letter was a follow-up to a similar request for information he'd made in October to 10 major health information technology systems developers about similar problems and concerns with IT systems.

Grassley said in a news statement accompanying the release of the letter that he was concerned about “difficulties and challenges” with health IT implementations in light of the billions of dollars that government and industry will spend on health IT under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“Given the taxpayer investment and the investment of the healthcare system overall in the information technology industry, the more Congress and others overseeing implementation of this program dig into the problems and work to get them sorted out now, the better,”

Grassley said. “Hospitals are on the front lines and their perspective will be very valuable in this effort, so I look forward to hearing what they have to say about expanded use of healthcare information technology.”

The letter asked the hospitals to respond to 11 questions, several of which focused on IT-related errors, patient safety issues, error recording and reporting, restrictions in vendor contracts barring providers from discussing or reporting problems with their software and financial relationships between hospitals and vendors.

Included among the hospitals queried were such national IT leaders and pioneers as Intermountain Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, Vanderbilt University Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital.

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