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Healthcare Associations Seek Delay of Information Blocking Compliance Period

Analysis  |  By Scott Mace  
   September 28, 2022

CHIME and others say hospitals and other providers are not ready and need more help from HHS.

Despite assertions from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) that it has gone the extra mile to help health systems abide by new information blocking rules that begin to take effect on October 6, several are lobbying for a significant extension of the deadline.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), along with nine other healthcare provider organizations, has sent a letter to US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra requesting an additional year to comply.

In a statement, CHIME officials asserted the organization has been an ardent supporter of information sharing and continues to advocate for patients’ ability to access their healthcare information in a digital format. But members have been hampered by scarce resources in trying to meet the deadline, the organization said.

"CHIME members remain steadfast in their dedication to be a trusted partner for patients and safeguard their ability to access their healthcare records, but it’s clear that more time is needed to ensure that providers have a thorough understanding of these important policies," said Russ Branzell, CHIME's president and CEO. "There has not been enough guidance on best practices and potential enforcement."

Citing what it said was overwhelming feedback from CHIME members representing a broad range of providers from across the healthcare continuum, including electronic health record (EHR) vendors, CHIME leadership maintained that these stakeholders are not fully prepared for the deadline.

With clinician burnout rates increasing, CHIME officials said HHS' unclear and inconsistent information sharing about data requirements could further strain healthcare providers and their support staff and may inadvertently undermine HHS’ goals to reduce provider burden, improve interoperability, and empower patients with their information.

Branzell said the “need for clear guidance is so important, and we need to make sure that all healthcare providers fully understand the many nuances of these complex policies.”

Small and rural providers, who more heavily rely on their EHR vendors for regulatory compliance support, are particularly unready, CHIME officials said.

Postponing compliance was not CHIME's only request. The organization also requested that HHS use corrective action warning communication to providers-- especially before they impose any financial penalties or begin formal investigations.

CHIME urged the HHS to ensure that providers and clinicians have the guidance, education, and technology to support these new policies before full implementation and enforcement of information sharing regulations.

In a statement, CHIME officials said, "We believe strongly in information sharing and want to see these policies succeed. A successful implementation of information sharing necessitates that all stakeholders have the critical tools, knowledge, guidance, and systems required to comply. This is simply not the case for most of the providers represented by CHIME."

An ONC spokesperson noted that the agency has provided a wealth of information about information blocking, including fact sheets, FAQs, blogs, and webinar recordings.

The spokesperson said these resources have been continually updated since April 5, 2021, the date when the regulation became official, and pointed to a fact sheet posted at that time.

Starting October 6, "actors will be expected to avoid interfering with access, exchange, or use of the full scope of EHI, except when applicable law mandates the interference or an information blocking exception is met," the spokesman said.

The ONC also said it would post a related blog post ahead of October 6 on its Buzz Blog.

In 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act made sharing electronic health information the expected norm in healthcare by authorizing the HHS Secretary to identify "reasonable and necessary activities that do not constitute information blocking." The ONC's 2020 Cures Act Final Rule established information blocking exceptions to implement the law.

The CHIME letter was also signed by the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, Federation of American Hospitals, and Medical Group Management Association.

Scott Mace is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.

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