The Final Interoperability Rules: A Turning Point In Healthcare

Patients have more access to their healthcare data today than ever before, leading to more informed healthcare decisions. There are many reasons why people want access to their own information as well as those they may be caring for, such as an elderly parent or a child. But the problem is where to look and how to share.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) defines interoperability as “the ability of different information systems, devices and applications (‘systems’) to access, exchange, integrate and cooperatively use data in a coordinated manner, within and across organizational, regional and national boundaries, to provide timely and seamless portability of information and optimize the health of individuals and populations globally.”


On March 9, 2020 the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the release of two rules around interoperability, applying to all hospitals, physicians, and health plans that receive any reimbursement through either the Medicare or Medicaid programs.

The final sets of rules will govern how providers, payers and technology vendors must design their systems to give patients safe and secure access to their digital health data. The essential part of the final rules is patients’ control of their electronic health information.


The ONC Final Rule states new regulations to prevent information-blocking practices and anti-competitive behaviors. “Information blocking is a practice by a health care provider, health IT developer, health information exchange, or health information network that is likely to interfere with, prevent, or materially discourage access, exchange, or use of electronic health information (EHI).”


There’s good reason to be careful about where and how health data is being used. Patient privacy needs to be protected through secure access to their health information.

So, what do the final interoperability rules really mean for patients? Patients can expect improved quality, transparency, and better outcomes at a lower cost. It enables patients to coordinate their own care and to actively be involved in the care coordination process.

These rules begin a new chapter with major changes for payers and hospitals to provide patients access to their health information. This is a turning point in healthcare that will surely make a difference to help provide safe and high-quality care.

If you have questions about the two rules around interoperability and information blocking, let us know.


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