How HHS' proposed interoperability rules will affect patients, EHR vendors

Jackie Drees -

ONC's proposed interoperability rules will require the healthcare industry to adopt standardized application programming interfaces to allow patients to access their medical records via smartphone apps, according to a Jan. 19 The Cap Times report.

Former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson last week criticized the new interoperability rules, saying that the regulations will force EHR giant Epic to hand over its trade secrets to competitors and harm Wisconsin's economy.   

The rule would require companies to make their health records software more interoperable and allow healthcare providers to share patient data with outside organizations. It would also put patients in charge of their health data by guaranteeing easy access to their medical records through third-party smartphone apps.

Epic executive Sumit Rana told The Cap Times that the proposed rules would require Epic and other EHR companies to "share their intellectual property with venture capitalists and others seeking to monetize patient data." Mr. Rana added that the rule would jeopardize patient privacy if regulations for app vendors aren't properly enacted before the rule is established.

"The rule would hurt the thriving health IT sector here in Wisconsin and consequently endangers the economy of the state," Mr. Rana said.

Nick Hatt, a senior developer at Redox, an interoperability startup founded by three former Epic engineers, said the company views the new rule as a positive for patients.

"[The rule is] not designed to help the big tech companies get more data and take over and displace people," Mr. Hatt said. "It really is centered around the patient and what the patient can do. It's about patient access to data."

HHS has not yet announced when the new rules will be released, and Mr. Hatt said it's still "too early to tell" whether Mr. Thompson is right that the new rules will threaten Epic and other EHR vendors. 

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