Faulkner squares up for Epic interoperability fight

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Epic CEO Judy Faulkner has called on the chief executives of US hospital systems to co-sign a letter protesting against proposed new laws which have been designed to make it easier to share medical information.

The HISTalk blog reported on 27 January that Faulkner warned hospital system CEOs that the proposed new anti-blocking rules from the Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) would undermine patient privacy, by enabling data-sharing with third party apps that might then sell patient data.

Politico reported that Epic might even join a lawsuit against HHS if it goes ahead with the new data sharing laws.

According to CNBC, the Epic founder emailed the chief execs and presidents of hospital systems running the electronic medical record software, urging them to co-sign a letter protesting the draft rules designed to penalise information blocking, which were published by HHS in 2019.

The rules, developed as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, are designed to make it easier for hospitals to share patient records with other healthcare organisations. Under the rule, patients would also gain the right to access their electronic data as well as provisions to penalise companies that block access to that information.

Drafted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, the new rules require EHRs to operate seamlessly with third-party apps and prevents EHR vendors and health care systems from data blocking. They are designed to address the current fragmentation of US healthcare data and give patients greater control of their data.

The letter from Faulkner defended the company’s track record on interoperability, saying that “patients have been able to download their health information since 2010”, and that Epic’s Care Anywhere product enables them to “interoperate with other health systems”, with the company also supporting integration with “thousands of third party applications”.

Epic says the proposed new HHS rule “would require health systems to send data to any app that a patient requests”, and claims that “79% of healthcare apps have been found to sell or share patient data”. As a consequence, it says the new HHS interoperability would harm patient privacy and confidentiality

HISTalk quoted an Epic company statement, warning that the new rules risked a repeat of Cambridge Analytica.

“We must speak out to avoid a situation like Cambridge Analytica. The solution has a clear precedent in HIPAA protections, and creating similar protections that apply to apps would make a difference in the privacy and well-being of millions of patients and their families,” the statement said.

According to the CNBC report, the Epic CEO’s letter was criticised by Aneesh Chopra, a former White House chief technology officer under Barack Obama, who said it was “unfortunate to see this much effort placed at stalling the important, bipartisan progress we have made to open up health information”.

The CNBC report also notes that if finalised, the new data-sharing rules could pave the way for tech giants like Apple, Google and Amazon to effectively enter the market and compete with established health IT vendors such as Epic and Cerner.

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