Epic says HHS interoperability rule risks patient privacy

Epic published a statement to its website on Jan. 27 to clarify the company's stance on HHS' proposed interoperability rule.

A spokesperson for the Verona, Wis.-based EHR giant told Becker's Hospital Review via email that Epic released the statement to "clarify [the company's] concerns about the pending rule." The published statement is Epic's first public response to the rule, which is set to finalize in the next month. Epic responded to ONC's proposed rule during the public comment period in 2019. 

Last week, CNBC's Christina Farr reported that Epic CEO Judy Faulkner had sent emails to some of its largest U.S. hospital clients, asking them to voice their disapproval of HHS' proposed interoperability rules. Ms. Faulkner also told Politico that Epic may consider suing HHS if the finalized version of the interoperability rule does not support adequate patient safety regulations.

HHS' proposed rules, which were issued by CMS and ONC to support the MyHealthEData initiative and the 21st Century Cures Act, would require the health IT industry to adoption application programming interfaces to help patients more easily access their health information.

In the Jan. 27 statement, Epic expressed its appreciation for HHS' proposed rule and its effort to make data sharing better for patients. However, the company provided suggestions to the agency before the rule is finalized to prevent "serious risks to patient privacy."

Here are two privacy concerns Epic has with the rule:

1. Data sent to third-party apps may include family member data, without the patient's or family member's permission.

2. The proposed rules do not include any transparency requirements, so the patient may not have a clear understanding of what data the app takes and what the app can do with the data.

"We have always, and will always, support patients' right to use their data as they see fit," Epic's statement reads. "However, it is the role of government to ensure that patients have the information they need to make those decisions knowledgeably, like they have for nutrition and food or labels in the clothes they buy."

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