Epic petitions court to protect confidential documents

Epic Systems filed a petition in equity April 6 against the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City seeking to bar the health system from disclosing certain documents Epic seeks to declare as confidential.

In May 2015, an Epic employee sent UIHC a report produced by healthcare technology research firm KLAS Enterprises regarding software developed by Epic. The report was called the EpicConnect Report. KLAS gave Epic permission to distribute the EpicConnect Report to its customers. The employee who sent this report to UIHC also attached eight other documents to the email.

UIHC then told Epic a third party filed an open records request for correspondence from Epic to UIHC about KLAS services and products. The health system said it released a copy of the employee's email without any of the attachments, but now the party requesting the information has asked to see an original copy of the email with all the attachments included.

UIHC told Epic it planned to release the employee's email and all attachments unless Epic filed an action to prevent the disclosure, which Epic did.

According to the filing, Epic does not object to disclosing the EpicConnect Report, but the health IT vendor believes the additional attachments should not be released for three reasons. First, the attachments are not within the scope of what the requesting party sought because they are not correspondence between Epic and UIHC about KLAS services or products. Second, Epic argues the attachments are not public records for the purpose of the Iowa Open Records Act, which defines public records as "all records, documents, tape, or other information, stored or preserved in any medium, of or belonging to this state or any county, city, township, school corporation, political subdivision, nonprofit corporation other than a fair…whose facilities or indebtedness are supported in whole or in part with property tax revenue."

Further, Epic argues in the filing that even if the attachments are public records, they should not be released because they constitute "confidential records" as defined by the same Iowa Code. The documents, according to Epic, contain proprietary information about the software's functionality, delivery and implementation methods, sales strategies and other "highly sensitive information." 

"This and other highly sensitive information gives Epic competitive advantages by not being generally known or to readily ascertainable by Epic's competitors in the industry," according to the filing.

Releasing the records would irreparably harm Epic and give Epic's competitors an unfair advantage, according to the filing.

Epic asked the court to declare the attachments are not public records, or declare they are confidential records, and to prohibit UIHC from disclosing them to third parties.

On April 12, UIHC filed its answer to Epic's equity case. The health system said the requested documents are part of an open records request and it will release the documents unless the court intervenes. The health system said it "will comply with any court order regarding the records at issue."

In a statement to Becker's Hospital Review, UIHC said, "The documents at issue were requested under the state's open records law. The University of Iowa notified Epic of its intent to comply with the law. Epic believes that the documents are protected and should not be released, and thus has followed the appropriate channels to assert its position in the district court. The University will comply with the court's decision on the matter."

Editor's note: The article was updated at 2:07 pm CT to include a statement from UIHC.

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