Epic CEO Judy Faulkner wrote an email to CEOs and presidents of hospital systems to sign a letter voicing disapproval for the interoperability and information blocking rule currently under consideration by ONC. The email asks recipients to sign a letter expressing disapproval for the rule, originally proposed in 2019, with plans to send copies to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Joe Grogan. The ONC rule aims to improve patient access to health information. It would require all patients to access their complete record at no cost, directs the healthcare industry to adopt open APIs to improve interoperability, and imposes consequences for information blocking practices.
Faulkner has been vocal about her opposition in the past. At the Forbes Healthcare Summit in New York City last December, she stated her belief that the rule will ultimately undermine patient privacy because “When patient data goes to an app from a health system, family members’ data will go over too. There is no way to get that out.” She also stated the rule is too broad in scope, and will require sharing information that is not standardized, resulting in unnecessary burden on EHR vendors and threatening intellectual property protections. Her proposed solution is that Congress should pass legislation expanding HIPAA regulations to cover mobile apps and other 3rd party technology vendors first.
The email, originally obtained by CNBC, urges CEOs and hospital presidents to sign for 4 reasons:
- Your patients have been able to download their health information since 2010.
- Your patients have been able to share their health information with anyone in the world that has internet since 2017.
- Care Everywhere allows you to interoperate with other health systems and was developed years before Meaningful Use required interoperability.
- Epic interoperates with thousands of third-party products/apps.
The letter also states that Epic is "concerned that healthcare costs will rise, that care will suffer, and that patients and their family members will lose control of their confidential health information…Let’s prevent the unintended consequences of this rule and make sure the final rule is a good one that is modified to help, not harm, healthcare organizations and patients.”
Secretary Azar appears unimpressed with the lobbying effort. Days after the email's release, he reiterated the goal of the rule is to enable patients to access their health records at no cost while breaking down technical barriers. He stated that “scare tactics are not going to stop the reforms we need,” and voiced his personal frustrations with accessing his record during a recent hospitalization. He could not get his call returned to access his full record, and also declined a medication, which was recorded incorrectly and resulted in the hospital dispensing it to him against his wishes.
Seema Verma, head of CMS, addressed the email more directly. “It’s important to understand the disingenuous efforts by certain private actors to use privacy, vital as it is, as a pretext for holding patient data hostage is an embarrassment to the industry…The short-sightedness of such efforts is deeply troubling, considering broad frustration with the status quo is the fuel that drives calls for the destruction of the entire private health care system. This self-serving mentality must be immediately and permanently retired.” CMS is creating its own rule concurrently with ONC to address the same issues of interoperability and information blocking.