Kaiser exec resigns amid EMR-initiative controversy

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The executive overseeing Kaiser Permanente’s ambitious $3 billion electronic medical records initiative resigned Tuesday, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. J. Clifford Dodd, senior vice president and CIO, quit four days after another employee, Justen Deal, sent out an email saying that Kaiser was wasting money and should scrap the project – known as HealthConnect – for “a system that can handle the scale of a company like Kaiser.” Deal’s email said that problems with HealthConnect has resulted in cost overruns and software breakdowns affecting access to medical records.

A Kaiser spokesman said the email was not the reason for Dodd’s resignation and that the allegations were untrue. The HealthConnect rollout has exceeded expectations, the spokesman said. Deal was put on administrative leave pending an investigation of whether he violated company e-mail policies.

Despite the push for paperless medical records, only 20 percent of physicians are using electronic medical record systems. As the nation’s largest nonprofit health organization, Kaiser Permanente’s high-profile digitization project has many in the industry keeping watch. Failure of such a large-scale project could cost Kaiser millions and, in turn, might cost members higher premiums. In the final quarter of last year, Kaiser posted its first loss in three years, at $211 million. However, the company posted $417 million in third-quarter profit on $8.7 billion in revenue on Tuesday, roughly an 11 percent increase over the same period one year ago.