Health IT vendors, trade groups demand HHS eradicate information blocking

The controversial practice puts patient lives at risk and, while the 21st Century Cures Act mandates the government take steps to end info-blocking, the organizations are looking for more clarity.
By Tom Sullivan
03:38 PM
information blocking

A group consisting of IT vendors and healthcare industry associations has recommended that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services take actions to eliminate information blocking.

“This business practice barrier to interoperability does not just thwart federal and private efforts to fully share clinical information, it may pose a significant risk to patient safety,” the group wrote. “For instance, information blocking impedes provider access to the most current, accurate, or complete information on their patients.”

[Also: Pew to ONC chief Rucker: Patient matching and data standardization can fix interoperability]

The letter was spearheaded by Health IT Now and addressed to both Donald Rucker, MD, who leads the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, and HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson. 

In addition to Health IT Now, it was signed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Medical Informatics Association, DirectTrust, Healthcare Leadership Council, National MS Society, National Partnership for Women & Families as well as technology vendors athenahealth, ION Solutions, McKesson, IBM and Oracle.

The organizations suggested that HHS propose a rule designed to answer five key questions about information blocking mandates in the 21st Century Cures Act: What is and is not information blocking? What qualifies as a so-called special effort when it comes to eliminating blocking? How to define “should have known” within the context of information blocking? How should the industry measure patient access to health information? And how does the 21st Century Cures Act relate to HIPAA and medical malpractice laws?

The letter also said that the proposed rule would benefit by HHS looking at other issues, including which reasonable business practices are not actually information blocking, what data to collect about information blocking, and any unintended consequences regulators should avoid, among others. 

Lastly, the groups suggest a September meeting between those signing the letter and HHS and ONC officials to help develop the proposed rule.

“This is a way for various stakeholders to show solidarity in ending this practice that is affecting the healthcare industry at large and placing patient lives at risk,” they wrote.

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