By MATT BLOIS
Two former employees of Franklin-based Community Health Systems have filed a lawsuit claiming that the company defrauded the government of hundreds of millions of dollars through the Electronic Health Record Incentive Program, which is supposed to incentivize hospitals to improve health care records.
In a lawsuit filed in January 2018 at a federal court in Miami and unsealed last week, the former employees accused Community Health Systems of receiving payments even though it was using software that didn’t meet the requirements of that incentive program.
Community Health Systems was using software developed by MEDHOST, a health care technology company headquartered in Franklin. In the lawsuit, the former employees said the software had major flaws that put patients at risk.
In a statement, Community Health Systems refuted the claims in the lawsuit and argued the incentive payments were legitimate.
The lawsuit cites doctors at Community Health Systems hospitals who were frustrated with the new software and complained that the problems could put patients at risk. Community Health Systems argued that it worked diligently to address any issues with the software rollout.
“Despite insinuations to the contrary in the litigation, we are unaware of any instances of patient harm. As an organization, we are devoted to patient safety and have always prioritized the quality of care provided in our hospitals as our most important responsibility,” the company wrote in a statement.
A court document filed by the U.S. government last week shows that it’s not yet joining the case because it hasn’t finished an investigation into the claims in the lawsuit.
The whistleblowers worked to implement electronic health record projects at Community Health Systems between 2009 and 2016.
According to those employees, MEDHOST told regulators that its software met the standards for the incentive program despite knowledge about flaws.
In a press release published Friday, MEDHOST denied that its software has flaws that make it ineligible for certification under the federal government’s incentive program.
In the statement, MEDHOST reported that hundreds of facilities have successfully used the company’s software, and that new buyers conduct “exhaustive analyses and comparisons” of their products.
“MEDHOST has been and remains very committed to providing its customers high-quality products and services. We strongly disagree with any claim that MEDHOST or the functionality of its products or services have failed to achieve this goal,” the company wrote in the press release.
MEDHOST reported in the press release that the Department of Justice contacted the company and it is cooperating with investigators researching the allegations.
Last week, The court unsealed the complaint and the government’s decision not to join the case yet. Lawyers have filed 19 other documents in the case, but those documents remain sealed.
When whistleblowers make accusations under the False Claims Act, courts seal the complaint while the federal government investigates whether or not to intervene in the case. Under the False Claims Act, the whistleblowers could also receive some of the money recovered through the complaint.