New federal rules will standardize how health data is shared and mandate that people have digital access to their own medical records, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday (March 9).
It is anticipated that the new regulations will benefit the growing medical data industry. The records contain intimate details – such as illnesses, prescriptions, laboratory results and sometimes genetics – that would be very valuable to firms seeking to establish healthcare solutions.
Big Tech firms like Apple, Google and Microsoft, which are making advancements in healthcare, are in favor of the new rules. Some consumer groups also support the changes. Healthcare consumers frequently confront obstacles in obtaining their medical records in an electronic format.
The rules, which were created by two Department of Health and Human Services agencies, include a contingency to make digital medical records easier to access. Additional rules could also require detailed disclosure about apps’ privacy policies, a federal source told the WSJ.
The new rules center on technical standards that will make it easier for app developers and authorized users to connect digitally with hospitals and doctors’ offices to tap data such as medications, lab test results and vital signs.
Insurers offering coverage via Medicare Advantage, managed Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act will reportedly be required to provide electronic access to claims information, including the costs of services.
“It will be absolutely transformative,” Ken Mandl, a Harvard professor who directs a health-informatics program at Boston Children’s Hospital, told the WSJ. “No one can get data out of [electronic health records] into applications in a standardized, effective way, so we don’t get innovation at scale.”
The rules will likely trigger patient privacy debates as medical centers negotiate data-sharing agreements with tech companies like Google and Microsoft.
“This will allow them to have their complete medical records at their fingertips,” said Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is issuing one of the rules.
Medical professionals, healthcare companies and third-party firms that work with them are all bound to follow HIPPA, the main federal law that protects patients’ health data.
Epic, one of the biggest electronic medical record firms in the U.S., recently stopped further Google Cloud integration and is instead focusing on Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS).