Health Consulting

The Good, Bad and Ugly on Information Blocking Regulations

Health Consulting

By Dr. Jamie Skipper, RN, PhD and Jesse Walsh MPH

Are you building an application that allows an individual or a provider a comprehensive view of a person’s health care journey? Have you run into data access barriers when trying to link into a person’s health data from a hospital system’s electronic health record (EHR) system?  The federal government will soon release new rules that may open access to this coveted data – helping you provide a fuller value to your company’s digital health solution.

The Cures Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification Program Final Rule is expected in early 2020, defining scenarios in which data sharing can be refused.  Outside of these scenarios, holders of health data will be considered “information blockers.”  All certified digital health technologies, as defined by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), must comply with this Rule – most likely – within months of the Rule being released. The scenarios for refusing data sharing will be limited, thus opening the opportunities for developers to request data access for their applications.

Here are some important takeaways from HHS’ Information Blocking Rule:

  • The Good: HHS wants more choices for patients and healthcare providers. This opens opportunities for health IT developers to create easy-to-use interfaces for patients to access their health information on smartphone apps –while still ensuring security and privacy.

  • The Bad: Health IT developers must display tact in preparing for the potential ‘disruption’ regarding how electronic health information will need to be shared by healthcare facilities.  Most likely, these providers and hospital systems will be scrambling to understand what they can and can’t share.  Since they may be your potential clients or partners, establish your knowledge – while avoiding an adversarial posture – of the Information Blocking Rule.

  • The Ugly: Fines imposed for information-blocking may reach $1 million per infraction for vendors. In September, a Florida hospital was fined $85,000 for delaying a patient’s timely access to records.  After the passage of the HHS Information Blocking Rule, you can anticipate more enforcement actions similar to the Florida case throughout the industry.

This new world of mandatory data sharing is sure to present additional hurdles to understand and navigate – stay tuned for updates from us once the Final Rule is released.

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