Health IT groups seek clarification on information blocking
- McKesson, athenahealth and 11 other health IT and provider organizations are urging HHS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health information Technology (ONC) to issue a proposed rule clarifying the meaning of information blocking and how enforcement will be applied, FierceHealthcare reports.
- Under the 21st Century Cures Act, signed in December, vendors and providers are prohibited from blocking information and face penalties of up to $1 million per violation for noncompliance.
- Business practices standing in the way of the exchanging of health information are often seen as an impediment to interoperability as well as a threat to patient safety.
The organizations are trying to make crystal clear what is allowed to be kept as proprietary information and what the government views and impeding progress and cooperation by stalling or undermining interoperability initiatives.
“The law, if implemented correctly, can facilitate the sharing of information to both enhance personalized care, as well as strengthen the growing population health model of coordinated high-quality care,” the letter says. The effort was spearheaded by Health IT Now.
To ensure a smooth implementation, HHS should draft a rule and allow for public input on a range of issues, including how information blocking is defined, what constitutes “special effort” in eliminating blocking and advancing interoperability and how patient access should be measured, according to the letter.
A proposed rule could also address such questions as what “reasonable” business practices are allowable and how to differentiate active information blocking from contract terms.
HHS has long been concerned with information blocking. In September 2016, CMS and ONC released an EHR contracting guide to help hospitals and providers negotiate terms that don’t hinder the usefulness of their patient information systems. Among the topics it discusses are data blocking techniques, such as connection fees and limits to data exchange, and sharing data on EHR performance.
The final rule for MACRA also requires providers participating in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) to attest that they’ve not acted to impede information exchange and to report suspected cases of information blocking.
“True interoperability has always been the goal,” HHS Secretary Tom Price told attendees at Health Datapalooza 2017 in April. He called for new “rules of the road” to achieve that aim.
Legacy EHR vendors, health IT companies and healthcare organization, such as Partners Health and UPMC, have taken steps to reduce barriers to interoperability in recent years. The ability to streamline data sharing can help providers personalize patient care plans and improve outcomes — important assets as organizations continue to transition to value-based reimbursement.