Predictably, most healthcare organizations in the U.S. welcomed the announcement Thursday that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT would allow for extra time to comply with the information blocking provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act.
The rules had been scheduled to take effect in just three days, on November 2 – but ONC has pushed the first compliance deadline out to April 5, 2021.
“Given the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, HIMSS appreciates the announcement from ONC with additional flexibilities around compliance with the Interoperability and Information Blocking Final Regulation,” said HIMSS (parent company of Healthcare IT News), in a statement.
“Our entire healthcare system needs to remain focused on better addressing COVID-19, and we agree that today’s action maintains a trajectory that will advance patients’ access to their health information. HIMSS wants to work with ONC to better educate the entire community on these interoperability requirements to ensure broader and more meaningful data exchange across the ecosystem.”
The American Health Information Management Association, meanwhile, said that, while it supports ONC’s “efforts to ensure that individuals can access, exchange and use electronic health information,” it nonetheless welcomes a six-month delay of the compliance deadline.
“We feel this is a prudent decision, as the reallocation of resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made it challenging for many health information professionals to ensure their institutions are sufficiently in compliance by November 2,” said Wylecia Wiggs Harris, AHIMA’s CEO.
“Ensuring that patients have seamless, timely, electronic access to their health information regardless of where that information travels will continue to be a top priority for health information professionals,” she said. “The six-month delay allows them additional time to see that their institutions’ policies and procedures are in place to fully enable the access, exchange and use of electronic health information. We thank ONC for being cognizant of the realities health information professionals are encountering during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
At the Medical Group Management Association, SVP for government affairs Anders Gilberg said the extra six months “is critical for medical practices as they face significant operational and financial challenges associated with the national COVID-19 pandemic.”
He added, however, that “MGMA maintains its concern that the information blocking regulation, with its many complex and confusing requirements and exceptions, will add unnecessary administrative burden on medical groups. We urge ONC to take full advantage of this additional time and develop comprehensive guidance and targeted educational resources.”
The pandemic “has required an unprecedented response from healthcare providers that has left them with limited time and resources to implement new policies in response to complex information blocking requirements and associated exceptions,” according to a statement from Blair Childs, SVP for public affairs at the Premier healthcare alliance.
“While Premier and our members are committed to expanding patients’ access to data, the delay will allow them to remain focused on combating COVID-19 and bringing our nation back to health,” he said.
Still, Premier called on EHR vendors and other certified health IT developers, “despite the delays, to move forward and expedite upgrades to their current technology, especially implementation of the USCDI; open, standardized APIs; and electronic health information export functionality. These EHR capabilities are needed to help ensure high quality and efficient care supported by fully interoperable EHRs and third-party applications, data sharing and exchange.”