Epic, other EHR vendors waive fees for record sharing

Three major companies agree to waive information-sharing fees

Days after a new government report warned that some electronic health record (EHR) vendors are blocking the exchange of health information between competing systems, several vendors have announced steps to reduce the cost of information sharing and promote interoperability, Modern Healthcare reports.

Interoperability is the key to innovation. So what's the delay?

Report: Vendors may be impeding interoperability

Earlier this month, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released a report accusing some EHR vendors of engaging in business practices designed to block interoperability.

Among the tactics that HHS identified were excessive charges for information sharing, implementing deliberate technical barriers to interoperability, and opaque contract terms between vendors and providers.

Easing interoperability

In the wake of the report, several EHR vendors have recently announced steps to reduce the cost of information sharing and promote interoperability.

According to Modern Healthcare's Joseph Conn, Athenahealth—a co-founder of the CommonWell Health Alliance, which provides information sharing services to its members—has said that it will begin absorbing its customers' costs for interoperability via the alliance.

Athenahealth's decision to absorb the cost of such services follows a similar announcement by fellow CommonWell co-founder Cerner last November. However, Cerner CEO Neal Patterson has only pledged to do so through 2017.

Epic Systems, which is not a member of CommonWell, has also announced it will stop charging customers for its proprietary information sharing system, Care Everywhere. "We're not going to charge for Care Everywhere for at least until 2020," Epic CEO Judy Faulkner said this week.

Previously, Epic charged 20 cents for each clinical message sent to a health information exchange. Inbound message were charged on a per-patient basis, at a rate of $2.35 a year. Faulkner says Epic thought its rates were cheaper than its competitors, but that ultimately the fees annoyed customers (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 4/15 [subscription required]; Tahir, Modern Healthcare, 4/11 [subscription required]).

The takeaway:Three large EHR vendors have pledged to stop charging customers for health information sharing, following a new federal report warning that many EHR vendors are not doing enough to promote interoperability.

How to understand interoperability—our industry's most overlooked problem


You've heard about health insurance. You've heard about medical errors. But have you heard about interoperability? It could be costing the health care industry as much as $30 billion per year.

So what is it?


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