How to Avoid the EMR Patient Data Ownership Trap ?
As the medical sector moves into a new age of digital patient data, the transition brings with it a crop of new challenges for medical practitioners to overcome and new questions to be answered. Among the most confounding questions is that of EMR patient data and who has the right to control it.
Why You Should Care About EMR Patient Data Ownership
This article attempts to clarify some of the issues surrounding control of patient data and explain why you and your EMR vendor might not share the same interpretation of the right to ownership.
For example, there are numerous well-publicized, documented examples of EMR vendors cutting off their customers’ access to patient data. This typically happens following a dispute over payment or the customer’s decision to defect to a different vendor. Where these cases have gone to court, outcomes have been mixed. That’s why it’s crucial to think about data ownership before entering into contractual agreements with EMR vendors.
So Who Does Own the Data?
As most experts today agree, “who owns the data?” is the wrong question, since the concept of ownership can’t really be applied to EMR patient data. What’s important though is who has the right to control or manipulate patient data and possibly, to deny access to other parties.
To answer that particular point in brief and in general (without making any claims of legal accuracy), patients are allowed to access their data, add to it, but not to amend it. As a medical practitioner, you can make amendments to data, provided the amendment is documented and the previous version retained.
Your EMR vendor can edit data under certain circumstances, but is not allowed to delete it and must provide it to you if your business relationship ends. However, with a cleverly worded contract, the vendor can ensure that they get well paid before turning data over. In reality then, EMR vendors have the most privileges in terms of what they can do with EMR patient data. However, they do not own it, but are merely custodians or stewards.
Challenges of Obtaining EMR Patient Data Access
While they might only be custodians of data, EMR vendors can still make it hard to obtain your data for migration to a new platform. If you missed your due diligence when reviewing the contract, you might find you’re liable to pay a hefty fee for your data.
Other potential challenges may arise from the format in which you receive your data. Right now, most EMR solutions use proprietary technology and database formatting. When you migrate to a new EMR, you’ll probably need to convert and optimize the data for a new proprietary solution.
EMR patient data migration will be easier with the help and cooperation of your incumbent provider. Gaining that support can present yet another challenge since a vendor who is losing a customer has little motivation to make the divorce an easy one.
Careful Vendor Selection is Key
Many issues with EMR patient data access can be avoided by agreeing on data control details at the start of the partnership between user and provider. It just requires plenty of homework before selecting a vendor, along with a diligent—and firm—approach to settling service contract conditions.
At ZH Healthcare, we provide Health IT as a Service (HITaaS) for doctors and other healthcare practitioners. We don’t believe in charging you hefty fees to access EMR patient data, regardless of the circumstances.
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