One patient's blood pressure plummeted dangerously after he was allegedly discharged with the wrong medications. In another instance, a physician couldn't place a pharmacy order for a newborn to receive vitamin K, which is given to babies to prevent serious bleeding.
On several other occasions, patients weren't accurately tracked, creating potential problems getting drugs to them.
Each of these alleged mishaps occurred at PinnacleHealth, a three-hospital system based in Harrisburg, Pa. PinnacleHealth blames each of the mishaps on its electronic health records vendor, Siemens; Cerner Corp. purchased Siemens' health IT business in February 2015.
The incidents came to light as part of a breach-of-contract lawsuit Cerner filed against PinnacleHealth last year after the system, which had used Siemens as a vendor for 20 years, sharply curtailed its relationship and entered into a contract with a competing EHR vendor, Epic Systems Corp. PinnacleHealth related the incidents in its counterclaim; the counterclaim was filed in March of this year in state court in Pennsylvania, where it is seeking damages for Cerner's alleged fraud and breach of contract.
Cerner spokesman Dan Smith declined to comment on pending litigation, but did say “patient safety is of the utmost importance to us.”
Some experts say the PinnacleHealth-Cerner battle is among the first of what could become an avalanche of legal battles over EHRs and patient safety. For years, many patient safety advocates have warned that EHR systems carry numerous potential risks due to their poor design and the ease with which data entry errors can lead to medical mistakes.