What happens when the lights go out?

The email excerpt below was sent to physician clients by a cloud based, ONC-ATCB certified company that recently decided to halt business operations:

“After months of effort in an attempt to survive the ongoing economic crisis, Redpine Healthcare Technologies, Inc. (“Redpine”) has made the difficult decision to discontinue business operations.  Effective immediately, Redpine will no longer be able to provide billing services.  In addition, as of the end of the month, Redpine will no longer be able to provide software for the benefit of its customers.”

First… what happens to your data? According to the email:

“Redpine is beginning the process of compiling all provider data from our internal files and will provide that data to you as soon as possible. We recommend discontinuing the use of Redpine software on any new transactions (we may be able to help you with current transactions and all new transactions will be entered into the new system within a matter of days).  We also recommend that you print all outstanding claims currently in your system. While doing this you will want to select “print soap notes” with HCFA, this will give you a complete patient visit record for all outstanding claims.”

There’s hope there… but no guarantees. Notice use of the term “HCFA?” The Health Care Financing Administration changed it name to CMS years ago. Why are they using antiquated terminology? Anyway, I digress. Here are a few points that come to mind:

  • There’s no guarantee that you’ll receive your data in a situation like this. What will you do? Sue a defunct corporation?
  • There was no hint whatsoever that the company would cease operations. Doctors must now scramble to rush new systems into place. If you had control of your data, this wouldn’t be an emergency. You’d be able to look for alternatives in a controlled manner. Better yet, if you were using a program like ECLIPSE, where all the data is exposed via ODBC, you could easily hire a programmer to move some or all of your data to a new environment at your leisure.
  • Timing! Typically, this is the time of year when any outstanding billing needs to be completed before the next calendar year.
  • HIPAA!!! You must have absolute faith that your data will be handled in a HIPAA compliant manner. ‘Cause if it isn’t, it’s your responsibility. A smart move might be to consult an attorney with relevant experience about the possibilities.

And let’s not forget the potential loss of various comments, reminders, and day to day notes with respect to patient care, follow-up, and billing. Also, during any transition to a new system, a variety of patients may “disappear through the cracks.” And they won’t be noticed until too much time has passed to get them back. So… think about the revenue lost to your practice.

According to the same email:

“We have contacted numerous EHR systems and billing services on your behalf and have found a solution that is consistent with the level of service you are accustomed to, all the while offering an expedient transition process that promises to minimize cash flow disruption.”

Perhaps it’s great that they’re attempting to mitigate the problems you’ll face (which may help the principals avoid lawsuits and/or class action litigation). However, this means that you don’t get the opportunity to make the selection yourself. And they didn’t contact us. But again, I digress.

Anyway, trusting your computing solely to the cloud has the advantage of “anywhere/anytime” computing. Does that outweigh problems like this? Put yourself in the shoes of doctors who have to complete their billing before the end of December (the email we received was dated 12/7/2011). And keep in mind that, outrageous claims and promises aside, this can happen to any company.

ECLIPSE provides a local database and internet accessibility simultaneously. Only you or your power company can turn off the lights.

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