Former HHS secretary: New interoperability rules would hurt Epic, Wisconsin economy

Former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who also previously served as Wisconsin's governor, recently published an op-ed in the Wisconsin State Journal arguing that ONC's new interoperability rules will force EHR giant Epic to hand over its trade secrets to competitors and "unfairly harm" the state's economy.

In the op-ed, Mr. Thompson asked HHS to reconsider its proposed data-sharing regulations, which were issued by CMS and ONC to support the MyHealthEData initiative and 21st Century Cures Act. The rules would require the health IT industry to adopt application programming interfaces to help patients more easily access their health information.

"These rules would compel Epic to give its trade secrets away to venture capitalists, Big Tech, Silicon Valley interests, and overseas competitors for little or no compensation," Mr. Thompson wrote. "HHS' rule would conscript Epic to work for these new entrants, subverting free market principles at the expense of Wisconsin residents."

Mr. Thompson claimed that the new rules would limit Epic's time spent on new patient innovations and instead have to spend "a significant amount of time" collaborating with other companies.

Judy Faulkner, Epic's founder, launched the EHR company in Wisconsin in 1970. Since then, Madison, Wis., has grown to become a large tech hub and was responsible for 47 percent of growth in tech jobs in the past five years, according to Mr. Thompson.

Epic fuels a large portion of Wisconsin's economy, providing jobs to more than 10,000 employees who work at its Verona, Wis., headquarters. Additionally, the company hosts thousands of visitors and trainees each week, who patronize local businesses and generate income for the state's economy, Mr. Thompson wrote.

HHS' rules, which Mr. Thompson argued do not outline a clear benefit for patients, will ultimately have a negative effect on Wisconsin jobs, and in turn, the state's economy.

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