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Once a holdout, Epic supports new interoperability rules

Once a vocal holdout, Epic Systems said it supports the final version of new interoperability rules passed last month by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). The new rules would require healthcare providers and health IT vendors to share patient data, unless exempted.

Epic had publicly pushed back against the proposed policies, saying they posed a privacy risk if patients chose to share their protected health data with third-party apps.  The concern was that a patient might not understand the full implications of sharing their health information with an entity that doesn’t protect it under HIPAA.

Epic CEO Judy Faulkner had sent out an email to the company’s hospital clients in January asking them to sign a letter opposing the information blocking rules.  According to CNBC, 60 of them went along with it.

Since the final rules came out in March, Epic has changed its tune. The company said the final version of the rules includes many of the changes it had requested.

“They created final rules with many material improvements, including greater flexibility for healthcare organizations to educate patients on how apps will use their data, and an emphasis on the use of common data standards whenever possible so that information sent from one system can more easily be understood by another,” Epic wrote in an emailed statement.  “The rules remain complex and will require substantial operational changes and significant time investment by health systems and health plans to implement those changes. We are committed to working with our customers to support their compliance efforts.”

With the ongoing pandemic, CMS and ONC recently announced they would bump back some of the deadlines for coming into compliance with the new rules. CMS is giving hospitals six additional months to share admission, discharge and transfer data. The ONC said it would also exercise discretion in enforcing the rules until three months after each compliance date.

Photo credit: Benjamin Derge, Wikimedia Commons

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