Viewpoint: HIPAA isn't to blame for healthcare's data-sharing challenges

Jessica Kim Cohen - Print  | 

While healthcare stakeholders often criticize HIPAA as one of the biggest roadblocks to interoperability, competitive IT vendors and poor financial incentives are bigger culprits, according to an op-ed by CNBC reporter Christina Farr.

Ms. Farr cites a Jan. 15 tweet by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bill Gurley decrying HIPAA as a "blocker of innovation" and an "excuse for not supporting interoperability" as indicative of a broader misconception in healthcare: that HIPAA, a set of patient privacy laws, inhibits organizations' ability to share medical data with one another.

However, Ms. Farr notes patients' right "to access this information [is] because of, and not despite, HIPAA."

To address data-sharing challenges in healthcare, Ms. Farr suggests evaluating the market dynamics that lead IT vendors like Epic and Cerner to develop "proprietary software that isn't designed to talk to competing systems."

She also notes many hospitals engage in a fee-for-service payment model, which encourages providers to retain patients. This system may dissuade hospitals from providing their patients with medical records that they can easily bring to a separate health system.

"The shift to a new kind of healthcare, which rewards hospitals based on patients getting better, will most likely result in the kind of changes we're looking for," Ms. Farr concludes. "Taking away privacy protections will not."

To access Ms. Farr's op-ed, click here.

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