Multiple Healthcare and Health Data Organizations Ask HHS for Additional Guidance on Information Blocking Regulations

Concerns Exist Regarding Complexity, Lack of Clear Understanding Regarding Rules Scheduled to Go into Full Effect October 6

WASHINGTON – Nearly 30 companies and organizations from the health provider and health data communities have requested the Department of Health and Human Services to provide “more specific and granular guidance” regarding new regulations on information blocking scheduled to be fully implemented on October 6, writing in a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra that there is a “lack of a clear and consistent understanding of the information blocking regulations across the community.”

The federal information blocking rules are intended to prohibit interference with the access, exchange or use of electronic health information except where exceptions have been clearly specified.

In the letter to Secretary Becerra, the 28 companies and organizations wrote, “significant knowledge gaps still exist within the provider community with respect to implementation and enforcement of Information Blocking Regulations. Many independent, small, rural and solo medical practices are still unaware or underinformed about information blocking requirements. This likely plays a major role in allegations that providers are blocking access to patient data.”

The letter praised the work of the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) for the work done thus far to provide further clarity on the rules. The organizations wrote, “this additional information provides much needed assistance as stakeholders assess how the rules intersect with their care delivery practices.”

The organizations also asked that, in order to foster “an environment of collaboration and education for information blocking, rather than one of enforcement, any additional guidance provided by HHS to change or illuminate the department’s interpretation of information blocking carry with it a six-month grace period on enforcement.

Specific steps recommended to HHS by the organizations include:

  • Defining the foundational concepts behind information sharing. This would include topics such as clarifying what constitutes good information sharing practices and how they should be implemented and what organizational processes should be instituted to evaluate whether a request for information sharing is valid.
  • Creating scenario-based Frequently Asked Questions to augment the current guidance. This would involve questions such as how a regulated actor should approach a situation in which they cannot do exactly what is asked of them in an information sharing request but may be able to provide the information in a different format, or how a request can be fulfilled if the actor does not have the technology or technical functionality necessary to fulfill it in the manner requested.
  • Bolstering the communications vehicles for releasing the enhanced guidance. The organizations requested that ONC consider a dedicated newsletter focused on implementing information sharing rules and that HHS and its connected agencies consider recurring webinars to provide information and answer stakeholder questions.

The companies and organizations signing the letter to Secretary Becerra include AdventHealth, Alliance for Nursing Informatics, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Neurology, American Heart Association, American Health Information Management Association, American Medical Informatics Association, Ascension, Civitas Networks for Health, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, Connected Health Initiative, Consortium for State and Regional Interoperability, Contexture, CyncHealth, Nebraska & Iowa, eHealth Exchange, Epic, Executives for Health Innovation, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), HIMSS Electronics Health Record Association, HIMSS New York State Chapter, Healthcare Leadership Council, Indiana Health Information Exchange, Marshfield Clinic Health System, Mayo Clinic, Medical Group Management Association, OCHIN, Partnership to Empower Physician-Led Care, and Premier, Inc.