Stakeholders must focus on needs related to the pandemic, says ONC national coordinator; the administration is still committed to placing patients' health information at their 'fingertips.'
To provide stakeholders additional time to comply with information blocking and health IT certification requirements in the 21st Century Cures Act Final Rule, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has issued an interim final rule, further extending crucial deadlines.
"We wanted to give folks some additional time and flexibility to work on the immediate COVID threats," said Don Rucker, MD, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology during a press briefing on Thursday.
Key provisions of the interim rule include:
- Extending the applicability date for the information blocking provisions from November 2, 2020, to April 5, 2021.
- Extending the compliance dates in the ONC Health IT Certification Program, including certain 2015 edition health IT certification criteria and conditions and maintenance of certification requirements to December 31, 2022.
The interim final rule also updates standards, clarifies regulatory text for specific certification criteria, and makes technical corrections and clarifications.
Rucker said the administration's goal is still to provide patients fingertip access to their medical information via their smartphones. The decision to extend the deadlines "is a careful balancing of the absolute importance of interoperability and standardized application programming interfaces with free and clear access to the information with the reality that we've heard from our provider-side stakeholders" about the demands of the pandemic," he said. "That has to be their first priority. We look forward to continuing to work with everyone to give patients the benefits of modern technology that they have not had … in healthcare."
The Cures Act Final Rule was issued on March 9. During April, to enable stakeholders to focus on IT needs related to the pandemic, ONC exercised enforcement discretion and extended deadlines by three months. The new interim rule further extends these deadlines.
Once the interim final rule is published in the Federal Register, its provisions will be effective immediately, and there will be a 60-day comment period.
Deadlines, exceptions, and further details are provided in a news release, and the interim final rule is posted on the ONC's website. In addition, a webinar will be offered at 3:00 p.m. (Eastern) on Monday, November 2 for those seeking more specific information.
Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.
ONC extends information blocking provision deadlines to April 5, 2021.
Health IT Certification Program compliance date requirements have been delayed until December 31, 2022.
ONC will offer a webinar on Monday with more details.