Compliance: Pirated software a risk for medical practices

October 10, 2008

Software companies such as Microsoft and Adobe have publicly battled illegal copies of their well-known office and design computer programs for years, but historically, health-care software providers haven?t been as vocal about copyright infringement. But that doesn't mean the industry was unaffected by software piracy.

Software companies such as Microsoft and Adobe have publicly battled illegal copies of their well-known office and design computer programs for years, but historically, health-care software providers haven’t been as vocal about copyright infringement. But that doesn’t mean the industry was unaffected by software piracy.

“For some reason, health care consistently rises to the top in cases we see each year,” says Keith M. Kupferschmid, senior vice president, intellectual property and enforcement for the Software & Information Industry Association, a trade organization which audits companies that are reported to have pirated versions of their members’ software.

This week, medical digital imaging firm Merge Healthcare will be the first health-care exclusive software firm to join the join the SIIA.

With its induction into the organization, Merge is offering an amnesty waiver until Dec. 31 to help medical offices to comply with license agreements for its eFilm Workstation, an application that allows clinicians to manage and view digital MRI, CT, x-ray, and other images. On Jan. 1, 2009, SIIA will begin auditing organizations that are reported to the SIIA as being non-compliant with eFilm licenses and will seek damages against organizations with illegal copies or copies exceeding those allowed by license. Each eFilm Workstation license costs $950, but the damages the SIIA seeks will vary depending on the number of violations and the cost of the software.

“eFilm has become the industry standard when you look at that category of viewing technology,” says Nancy Koening, President of Merge Healthcare’s Fusion division. “It’s natural that the software pirates have gone after eFilm first.”

Merge, however, is not the only SIIA member which offers computer applications used by medical practices. Several years ago, SIIA settled for $6 million with a California medical organization, (which Kupferschmid declined to reveal citing a lawsuit confidentially agreement), for using illegally copied versions of software. Just last year, SIIA settled for $75,000 in a copyright infringement case against California-based Healthcare Management Partners LLC, which provides revenue cycle management services to medical practices.

“Our best guess is that health care is so focused on patient care as well as other compliance in the medical industry that software compliance isn’t high on their radar screen,” Kupferschmid says.