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Epic ensnared in Texas probe of parental access to teen medical records

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Dive Brief:

  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Thursday he is expanding an investigation into hospitals and corporations that he alleges are denying parents access to their children’s medical records. Paxton has issued a demand for documents to Epic Systems.
  • The attorney general began a probe into hospital parental access policies in late October targeting Memorial Hermann Health System, saying he had received complaints that the Houston-based provider was preventing parents from obtaining their children’s records once they reached the age of 13.
  • Paxton, in announcing the expanded probe, accused companies of letting politics dictate policies. He demanded that Epic produce its policies on children’s health information within 30 days.

Dive Insight:

Texas is at the forefront of an intensifying legal battle over the rights of transgender and non-binary children to gender-affirming healthcare. The state has led efforts to investigate parents for child abuse for approving gender-affirming treatment.

Legislation introduced in more than a dozen states across the country has sought to prevent LGBT youth from receiving gender-affirming care, though court rulings have temporarily blocked most attempts to enact restrictions. Gender-affirming care may include medical, surgical, mental health and non-medical services.

States’ attempts to limit minors’ access to gender-affirming care come even as most prominent medical associations endorse it as a necessary treatment for dysphoria, which is defined as the distress people can feel when their gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth. Six major U.S. medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in a statement last year they strongly oppose any law or rule that would interfere with the provision of such evidence-based care.

Paxton, who issued a nonbinding legal opinion in February arguing that certain medical treatments for children with gender dysphoria constitute child abuse under Texas law, is defending challenges to Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive equating gender-affirming care with child abuse. Under the directive, healthcare providers could face penalties for providing the services.

With the investigation launched three weeks ago into Memorial Hermann’s policies covering parents’ access to the health records of their teenagers, Paxton appears to be stepping up his scrutiny of providers. Memorial Hermann did not respond to a request for comment on the investigation or its parental access policies.

The attorney general said he was extending his probe of records policies to include Epic after determining that the healthcare software developer “may have additional information regarding these concerns.”

An Epic spokesperson declined to comment on the matter. Memorial Hermann announced in September that it had chosen Epic to be its new electronic health records platform.

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