Health records company Epic Systems and around 60 hospital chains are pushing back against proposed government policy making it easier for patients to share medical records data with apps. Apple has supported the policy.
Epic sent a letter of opposition, signed by its supporters, to the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Epic’s letter argues the health records sharing push will be “overly burdensome” and “will endanger patient privacy.”
The new rules would make clinical data accessible via APIs. Epic currently sells its medical record software to hospitals throughout the United States. An Epic installation can reportedly cost upwards of $1 billion for a “major health system to implement.”
Part of Epic’s letter reads as follows:
“While we support HHS’ goal of empowering patients with their health data and reducing costs through the 21st Century Cures Act, we are concerned that ONC’s Proposed Rule on interoperability will be overly burdensome on our health system and will endanger patient privacy. Specifically, the scope of regulated data, the timeline for compliance, and the significant costs and penalties will make it extraordinarily difficult for us to comply.”
Epic goes on to recommend some changes to the proposed rules. These would include extra clarity around health information related to family members. They also suggest a longer timeline for developing compliant technology, up from 12 months to 36 months.
A spokesperson for HHS confirmed to CNBC that it had received the letter. “We appreciate all stakeholder feedback as we continue to finalize the rules,” they said. “Our ultimate goal is to ensure that patients are able to easily access their electronic medical records.”
Epic worries health records changes could be bad news
Recently, Apple was among the tech companies represented at a meeting about the efforts to make it easier for patients to access and share their health data. Other tech companies supporting the initiative include Google and Microsoft. Apple’s representative, via phone, was Ricky Bloomfield, a doctor with expertise in HealthKit and ResearchKit, who joined Apple in 2016.
Apple has constantly pushed to streamline health records. For instance, last year it introduced a Health Records feature for veterans, created in association with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The feature lets patients look at an all-in-one snapshot of their health profile. All Health Records data is encrypted and protected with the user’s iPhone passcode, Touch ID or Face ID.
Tim Cook has said he believes Apple’s healthcare initiatives could ultimately prove to be the company’s lasting legacy.