America’s largest electronic health record company has launched an effort to block the flow of its data into apps that could benefit the healthcare system.
Epic, a major beneficiary of a $48B Obama-era program to adopt EHRs, has made clear it will try to stop a proposed rule to support the seamless and secure exchange of health data.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology proposed the rule under the 21st Century Cures Act. It is now under final review at the Office of Management and Budget.
If it is passed, EHR’s will be required to work with third-party apps to transform the digital capacity of the healthcare system.
Epic’s CEO Judith Faulkner, however, has written to leaders of hospital systems to ask them to oppose the ruling at the last minute.
She even told Politico her company may sue the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) if her initial efforts fail.
According to some, blocking the approval of the rule is, in turn, preventing the healthcare system from progressing.
Interoperability and improved information flow are set to benefit patients and doctors, improve health outcomes, and reduce health system costs. It would also allow individuals to access digital copies of their health records.
While the health system in America is already data-driven, healthcare also heavily relies on pre-internet proprietary and non-interoperable software which costs billions of dollars per hospital.
The EHR software is currently under contracts that contain clauses abdicating responsibility for adverse events associated with their products and nondisclosure clauses to inhibit reporting of serious adverse events.
Faulkner is currently claiming patients have been able to download their records since 2010. In fact, this was not completely possible until mid-2018 when Apple stepped in.
The company used an interface to allow apps to be added or deleted from an EHR just the same as on smartphones.
From there, iPhone users could connect Apple’s Health App to acquire copies of their records electronically and share them with a growing number of apps of their choice.
The interface will now be required under the proposed rule, and Epic and other EHR companies will be required to expose fuller data sets to patients who wish to view them.
The 21st Century Cures Act states patients should be able to access all elements of their records, with the new rule detailing exactly how that will be made possible.
Epic has since argued that its main concern involves patient privacy, although this has been shunned by various publications that claim the company is deflecting progress.
In an interview with Politico, Faulkner said: “I think that the health systems and the EHR vendors and government owe the patients to protect their data. The typical patient might say “yes” to something they don’t understand. Not because they are not intelligent.
“You see a 55-page terms of the agreement, check here. Everyone says “I agree.” No one reads them. What responsibility if any do we have? There are a lot of philosophical questions to be answered.”
She added she wasn’t worried about patient data getting into the hands of the patient, but more about it getting into the hands of the vendor first, adding data companies would then be effectively ‘authorizing’ the vendor.
Faulkner said: “Unless the regulations say that’s OK to do, then OK, we do it. … I’m not going to make a philosophical judgment. I’m going to just say we’ve got to do whatever it is we’re supposed to do. But hopefully, it will be reasonable.”
Instead of committing to the change, Epic has instead caused upset within the industry that is striving for a better system.