It started out as a satire about electronic medical records posted as a computer game review by an electrophysiologist in Kentucky. The problem was, it contained real screen-shots of a real EMR that highlighted certain (how do we say it nicely?) quirks of the software. But this wasn’t just any software, this is an electronic medical record that manages information on nearly 40% of all real live hospitalized patients in America, EPIC Systems. Evidently, those screen-shots were (and continue to be) off limits. They’re trade secrets that can’t be shared publicly, it seems.
So the doctor, fearing legal retribution, had to take the screen-shots down.
I wonder what patients think of this behavior by a company that manages their medical records? Should de-identified screen-shots of an EMR software application be trade secrets or is such a move just cyber-bullying of a doctor’s criticism by the company? If this disclosure was against national policy in our era of interconnected EMRs, who was going to tell doctors nationwide that such disclosure was (and is) off limits?
What should doctors and patients think when a multi-billion dollar company silences one of their end-users in such a fashion? What might they be hiding? What rights do patients have to see these screen-shots? After all, isn’t it THEIR data that is held within these systems? If doctors can’t criticize the place where their patient’s data is stored, who can? What are the ethical implications of EPIC’s move?
It’s now clear what at least one EMR company thinks about doctors criticizing their computer user interface publicly. What do you think?
PS: It will be interesting to see how long this post lasts…