Critics See Trump Health Data Rules as Boon for Big Tech

March 15, 2020 Media

Critics are sounding the alarm over new rules introduced by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week to give Americans more control over their health data.

They warn that while more access to health data for patients and small, consumer-focused companies, could be hugely beneficial, there are not enough protections in the rules to safeguard sensitive information or stop big tech companies from acquiring the data.

The two new rules were issued by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The ONC rule, which implements certain portions of the 2016 21st Century Cures Act, requires health providers to allow patients to electronically access their health data for free.

The CMS “Interoperability and Patient Access” rule focuses on securing the exchange of health information and requires third-party groups to provide information on their data privacy policies before information is shared with them.

Moving health data from hospitals and electronic health record companies — also known as EHRs — to patients is a significant shift in how America treats medical information.

Supporters of the new rules say they will empower patients, allowing them to use their health data to access better or different treatments more easily. Patients have always been able to request data from their providers, but the process can be time-consuming and come with potentially prohibitive fees.

“[The rules are] particularly helpful for complicated patients, patients that have chronic disease that have to see a lot of specialists, if they have to transfer their records from one system to another, the way the system is set up really segments care, making data more interoperable will fix a lot of those existing problems,” Olivia Webb, a policy analyst at the newly formed anti-monopoly organization the American Economic Liberties Project, told The Hill.