Epic Systems has long used a slogan to describe its software, which hundreds of hospitals and clinics across the globe use to manage their patients’ health records: “with the patient at the heart.”
Verona, WI-based Epic is backing up that credo with a new program that would allow the 190 million people who have a current electronic medical record in Epic to share their health data with providers who document patient information on paper or using software that isn’t able to receive records from the patient’s regular care provider. The move comes amid industry discussions about how health data is shared and who should control the flow of information.
Share Everywhere, which Epic unveiled Wednesday, is designed to put patients in control of their medical records. A patient can give any healthcare provider with an Internet connection access to her health data, Epic says. This spares the patient from lugging around stacks of paper records if he or she is seeing a specialty physician for the first time. Or, if patients are traveling, they would be able to provide their Epic chart to local doctors, who would have the benefit of not starting from scratch in determining a treatment plan.
“Patients should be able to easily share their health information with anyone they choose, no matter where they are,” says Janet Campbell, Epic’s vice president of patient engagement, in a prepared statement.
Share Everywhere is a new feature within MyChart, Epic’s free, patient-facing software that lets people use computers and mobile devices to do things like view test results, request prescription refills, and securely send written messages to their primary care physicians. Just about any adult who receives care at a healthcare organization that uses Epic’s software can sign up for a MyChart account.
According to a Modern Healthcare report, Share Everywhere works by generating a unique code within MyChart. Clinicians then enter the code into a website and download information about the patient’s allergies, medications, and health issues, among other data.
Additionally, Epic says, “a provider granted access can send a progress note back to the patient’s healthcare organization,” so that doctors there can review details of the patient’s visit or hospital stay at the other provider’s facility.
Epic customers that license the MyChart application will be able to start using Share Everywhere in November, and it won’t cost them anything extra, Epic says.
The new software is relevant to current discussions about who owns patients’ data. Epic could point to Share Everywhere, which is designed to let patients decide who gets access to their records, to argue that it is patients—rather than a hospital or software company—who own their health data.
A Politico report last month detailed a tense exchange between former Vice President Joe Biden and Judy Faulkner, Epic’s founder and CEO, at a meeting in January. Biden reportedly expressed frustration at Faulkner’s argument that it doesn’t make sense to change how health records are formatted so that patients can easily understand all the medical jargon and other information in them. (One issue is how much data patients really need to digest to make decisions.)
Following the Politico report, Epic attempted to downplay the incident, saying in a statement that Biden “was consistently polite and positive to every person, including every vendor, in the meeting.”
U.S. law makes it clear that patients should be able to obtain their own health data and share them with other parties.