In March 2019, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) issued a Proposed Rule, 21st Century Cures Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification Program and released a final Rule in March 2020, published in the Federal Register on May 1, 2020.
Compliance for the Information Blocking provisions of the ONC Final Rule for all Actors (Developers of Certified Health IT, HIEs/HINs, and Providers) is required by April 5, 2021, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What does information blocking mean?
Information blocking is “a practice by a health IT developer of certified health IT, health information network, health information exchange, or health care provider that, except as required by law or specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) as a reasonable and necessary activity, is likely to interfere with access, exchange, or use of electronic health information (EHI).”
“Information blocking can have many forms. It might be a physician experiencing information blocking when trying to access patient records from other providers, connecting their electronic health record (EHR) systems to local health information exchanges (HIEs), migrating from one EHR to another, or linking their EHRs with a clinical data registry.
For patients, it can mean they are experiencing information blocking when trying to access their medical records or when sending their records to another provider.”
But just because information isn’t flowing the way it’s expected doesn’t always mean it’s information blocking. There might be technical issues or human error. Implementing changes does take time.
Under the ONC Interoperability Rule, it will not be considered information blocking if an “actor” is protecting the patient’s safety or privacy. Protecting data privacy is imperative.
What’s highly important for the work of most physicians and hospitals is the access to clinical notes (ie, ‘open notes.) The way of documenting is going to be affected in new ways.
Under the Cures Rule systems are required to let patients see their clinic notes and even let patients have them. Whenever a physician has completed a note it will be accessible to patients. There might be some concerns for health professionals such as notes being misinterpreted or confusing. And it could also mean taking more time to write notes differently so that patients can understand them.
Opening notes to patients doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a learning curve both for patients and physicians that takes time and involves careful consideration of physicians’ and hospitals’ individual needs, their IT infrastructure and the organization’s culture. Most enterprise EHR platforms have the built-in technical capacity for open notes, but still it remains a question of commitment, willingness, acceptance and adjustment. It shouldn’t be a huge issue in organizations where communication is already part of its culture. It definitely shouldn’t be a burden, and a little patience and open-mindedness goes a long way.
There are going to be some growing pains for doctors, hospitals and patients. After a transition, the benefits will outweigh the costs. Access to personal information will be another safety feature for patients now being in the driver’s seat.
The Cures Rule is an historic step in patient access. It will deeply change the way of sharing health information and its relationship to patients. This is a big deal.
With the complexity of the rules and the many elements to be considered it is imperative to work with experts to ensure that you are NOT information blocking. Preparedness is key to success. Primeau Consulting Group has developed solutions. Learn more at https://primeauconsultinggroup.com/cures-act-information-blocking-assessment-and-consulting-services/