Information Blocking in 2021: New Rule in School - Cover

Information Blocking in 2021: New Rule in School

The final rule from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology regarding the 21st Century Cures Act finally went into effect on April 5, 2021, and its new regulations on interoperability and information blocking have already had quite an impact on vendors and provider organizations alike.

Providers are feeling pretty confident in their ability to share patient data and confident in the current technology that enables them to share that data. However, providers’ biggest challenge with the rule has been its vagueness. KLAS has dipped a toe into these waters to see just how this rule has affected vendors and providers and how organizations have prepared for this rule to be implemented.

What Happens in Vagueness…

This new rule was created to address things like how providers share patient data with the patient, such as making sure that patients got full electronic access to their records (e.g., portals). The rule threatens fines for those not providing access, but exactly how and when that access needs to happen isn’t spelled out. Charging too much could also be considered information blocking, but there was very little information on where the line was for what was considered a reasonable price.

On the timing side, providers are expected to react to requests and changes within a certain time frame. But without a set rule for how long that reaction should take, organizations could be accused of information blocking for dragging their feet too much. There is even some vagueness around what patients are actually able to access in the patient record. Dealing with these challenges and the strain of COVID-19 led to postponing the rule until April 2021 from its original date in 2020. Many are still wondering what will happen and what kind of strain could be put on resources at both the providers’ and vendor’s organizations if accused of information blocking.

…Is Beaten by Preparedness

However, despite all of these worries, a stunning majority of organizations contacted by KLAS reported feeling prepared to comply with the new rule.

organization's level of preparedness for information blocking requirements most commonly cited reasons for reported level of preparedness

Many organizations reported that just being able to pull in their legal teams early was a huge benefit to them. These teams were generally able to pick apart the rule and use their internal research sources to decide how to handle the new regulations and explain to the powers that be just how a given organization is meeting or will meet certain pieces of the new rule.

There has also been a strong push for organizations to improve documentation completeness and timeliness of that documentation. Several organizations did training around this to help ensure that the right information was going into the record. People have been training for years to improve on the general completeness of records, so providers feel that this will help encourage this effort.

Most providers felt they could meet the immediate information blocking requirements by better leveraging their portals. As we move forward with the new rule, it is going to require more than just the portal. There are some patients with more complicated patient records due to frequent visits or chronic illness, and those fragmented records are much harder to consolidate and manage since there isn’t one universal patient portal. So there will have to be some adjustment for patients with complex needs.

Feeling Good About the Future

For as complex as things have become with this new rule, and despite the vagueness of the rule, things are looking pretty good for provider organizations and vendors alike. For the most part, providers feel pretty confident in their vendors’ ability to meet their needs whether through providing a portal or by integrating with an HIE to help aggregate PHI.

While there is some anxiety around getting slapped with fines pertaining to information blocking, it seems that many organizations are feeling good about their chances of thriving in this environment thanks to their prep work and the responsiveness of EMR vendors to tweak tools to enhance access. For more information on this subject, check out KLAS’ Information Blocking Flash Insights Report 2021.

Photo Credit: Gajus, Adobe Stock