'Empowering consumers is the right thing to do': Cerner CEO Brent Shafer supports HHS' interoperability rules

Giving patients free and secure access to their electronic health data is not only "the right thing to do" but will also support innovation in digital products and the healthcare industry, according to Cerner CEO Brent Shafer.

In a March 6 company blog post, Mr. Shafer, who also serves as chairman of Cerner's board, expressed his support of HHS' interoperability rules. The regulations, which were finalized March 9, require health IT developers to adopt standard application programming interfaces to help patients gain easier access to their health data as well as implementing information-blocking provisions.

With full support of the interoperability rules, Mr. Shafer wrote that Cerner is actively making its data repositories more accessible to support its clients' efforts to ensure the patient is more empowered to control their data and discern who needs it. Consumers should have the right to access their health data and control with whom that information is shared, Mr. Shafer wrote.

Mr. Shafer compared the interoperability of patient health data to the financial industry, which allows consumers to own the rights to their personal financial information. While it's important to support the security of patient data, restricting access to their information limits innovation possibilities.

"With an ATM card, I can access my bank account at competitor banks around the world," Mr. Shafer wrote. "I can elect to send my information to applications that help me manage my finances or enable me to send money easily to my friends. I'm protected in part by government regulations while also empowered to make the right choice for my own data and financial wellness. Yes, privacy is important in healthcare too, but the solution is not to restrict access, especially when we are dealing with life and death decisions."

Mr. Shafer wrote that the company opposes any businesses and practices that prevent health data interoperability because "empowering consumers is the right thing to do."

Earlier this year, Cerner's largest EHR competitor Epic expressed privacy concerns over HHS' proposed rules. In February, 60 U.S. health systems signed a letter from Epic CEO Judy Faulkner opposing the interoperability rules. 

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