By Elon Glucklich

The Bulletin

A Deschutes County effort to transfer patient health records from its dated computer system to a Web-based replacement is off to a rocky start.

An internal audit published last month found the county’s new computer software, launched in late 2012 to modernize record-keeping in the Health Services Department’s behavioral health division, suffers from frequent freezes and crashes. Staffers often struggle to verify claims by Oregon Health Plan patients, and many employees are dissatisfied with the system.

In 2011, the county contracted with health care software firm Uni/Care Systems — now called Cocentrix — to launch the new program, at a cost of roughly $400,000.

But as recently as last July , nine months into the Cocentrix launch, the audit found just 65 percent of the records kept on file could be verified as accurate.

To be sure, the audit did highlight some real strides the program has made in the past year. The data accuracy rose to 87 percent in April.

But it also found health staffers lost hours of productivity trying to work around the glitches and screen freezes.

“The current software does not have sufficient internal controls established to assure compliance with regulatory requirements of serving the Oregon Health Plan participants under Medicaid,” the audit states.

Ensuring its records are accurate has perhaps never been more crucial.

The number of Deschutes County residents on the Oregon Health Plan — the state’s provider of Medicaid — has boomed since Jan. 1, the result of national health care reform that boosted Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

Across the county, roughly 22,000 residents were enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan in December, according to DeAnn Carr, deputy director of the county’s behavioral health division.

By the end of May, enrollment stood at 38,660 — a staggering 72 percent increase. The county expected roughly 5,300 new enrollees in all of 2014, but has been flooded by three times that figure with more than half the year to go.

Carr said improvements in the software are promising, noting federal Medicaid guidelines call for data accuracy rates of 80 percent or higher. The county hit the 80 percent mark in October 2013, according to the audit, and has continued to rise since.

“We’re pleased with that increase,” Carr said this week. “There are certainly challenges of implementing a new electronic medical records (system) and making sure all the elements are in place.”

But in the county’s response to the audit findings, health officials wrote, “Management supports the conclusion that the current electronic health system used by the agency is insufficient in meeting primary business needs… In response to these challenges, (Deschutes County Behavioral Health) has been investigating alternative” electronic medical record systems.

Whether the county keeps working with the Cocentrix system or ditches it for a new system isn’t clear. Neither is Cocentrix’s role in improving the county system. Company officials didn’t return a message seeking comment Friday.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820,