On October 29, 2020, HHS extended the effective date of compliance for the "Information Blocking" final rule promulgated as part of the 21st Century Cures Act (Information Blocking Rule). The Information Blocking Rule, which was set to take effect on November 2, 2020, prohibits health care providers, IT developers, and health information exchanges from unreasonably interfering with the access, exchange, or use of electronic health information (EHI). We previously discussed the practice of information blocking and the eight exceptions in our blog post Information Blocking: Ready or Not, Here it Comes!.
With the publication of the Interim Final Rule, HHS extended the compliance deadline to April 5, 2021 after the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) took into account the difficulties providers are currently facing due to the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, the deadline for meeting health IT certification requirements and for adopting new standardized application programming interface (API) functionality was also extended until Dec. 31, 2022, among other delays.
Interoperability Benefits Telehealth
Once implemented, the Information Blocking Rule will impact the expansion of telehealth services nation-wide. Utilization of telehealth has skyrocketed due to social distancing requirements during the coronavirus pandemic and will continue beyond the end of the public health emergency as federal and commercial payors allow for greater reimbursement. Currently, providers offering telehealth services struggle with accessing patient information and coordinating follow up as the platforms through which they interact with patients are not compatible with other providers' EHI systems.
The Information Blocking Rule requires that providers adopt standardized API functionality, enabling EHI systems to connect with third-party software and patients to easily access their EHI through third-party apps of their choice. This interoperability opens the door for patients and providers to effectively communicate and share EHI through platforms that are easily accessed by patients on their smartphones.
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