EHR Data Hostage Wouldn’t Exist if EHR Were Truly Interoperable

I was recently talking with Mario Hyland, Founder and Senior Vice President of AEGIS (or better known on social media as @interopguy), about various healthcare IT certifications and really a follow up discussion to our previous look at achieving continuous healthcare interoperability. Next month I’ll be launching the Healthcare Scene podcast and I’ve invited Mario to join me as a guest. So, more to come on EHR testing in the future.

However, as we were discussing my vision for what would be a “meaningful EHR certification” I suggested that it would be meaningful to doctors if an EHR vendor was certified as able to export all of the EHR data. It would be meaningful to doctors if an EHR vendor’s contract was certified to not hold EHR data hostage if a doctor chooses to go to another EHR. I think many EHR vendors would do it as a way to instill trust in the doctors who choose their EHR (Translation: We’re so certain you’ll love our EHR that we’ve made it possible for you to leave our EHR if you want to leave).

As I recounted this idea and others, Mario Hyland made a great observation: If EHR software were truly interoperable, an EHR vendor couldn’t hold a practice’s EHR data hostage.

Think about the concept. If there was true EHR interoperability, you could just buy a new EHR, connect it to your old EHR, and all the data would be available in the new EHR. We’re not even close to getting there yet, but the concept is right.

One challenge is that in practice, we’re only sharing a small subset of the data in the EHR. Even if we got the entire medical chart interoperable, there’s still a bunch of other data in an EHR that would be beneficial to retain. For example, things like audit logs from the old EHR might come in valuable if an old record comes under scrutiny in some legal case.

I still love the concept. I also think it’s one extra reason why we don’t see EHR vendors running towards interoperability. I only know a few EHR vendors that have enough trust in the EHR software they’ve built that they’d be ok building the functionality for their doctors to leave.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Isn’t an interoperability mandate one of the few clear issues in Medicine that the federal government ought to be invited on loved in? It makes sense from the free market view of the author’s article. Beyond that it would help to unblock some of incompatibility problems between various provider networks.

  • John, right on!

    In the mean time, from a contractual perspective, at the very minimum, Contracts must cover :

    a) Cost of Data Export on demand, more like the processing fee rather than cost of data itself.
    b) What will be included in the data and what format.

    Data is not the vendor’s, it should belong to the provider (therefore the cost of processing), which should be minimal.

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