ONC Extends Information Blocking Compliance Deadline to April 5, 2021

THE INFORMATION BLOCKING RULE

The Information Blocking Rule (collectively, 42 U.S.C. § 300jj-52 and 45 C.F.R. Part 171) prohibits health care providers, health IT developers of certified health information technology, and health information exchanges/health information networks (HIE/HIN) from engaging in practices that are likely to interfere with the access, exchange or use of electronic health information (EHI), unless the practice is required by law or a regulatory exception applies. The original compliance deadline was November 2, 2020.

COMPLIANCE DEADLINE DELAYED

On October 29, 2020, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released an Interim Final Rule that delays the compliance date of the Information Blocking Rule until April 5, 2021. ONC also further extended the period of time during which compliance may be limited to EHI represented in the USCDI (v.1) data elements, until October 6, 2022. ONC extended the deadlines in recognition that the health care system needs this extra time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Information Blocking photo

The extended compliance deadline will take effect immediately upon publication of the Interim Final Rule in the Federal Register. The rule is scheduled for publication on November 4, 2020.

ONC also extended certain deadlines for certification requirements applicable to health IT developers of certified health information technology (see 42 C.F.R. Part 170).

TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS

ONC also made many technical corrections and clarifications, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • No Purchase/Upgrade Requirements. ONC clarified that the Information Blocking Rule itself does not require the purchase or update of health IT solutions.
  • Redundant Usage of “Prevent, or Materially Discourage.” The original rule defined “interfere” or “interference” as meaning “to prevent, materially discourage, or otherwise inhibit.” 45 C.F.R. § 171.102. Because of this existing definition, in the Interim Final Rule ONC deleted the redundant use of “prevent, or materially discourage”—in addition to interfere—from the definition of “information blocking,” and the same change was made in the Security exception (45 C.F.R. § 171.203). These deletions do not change the substantive definition of “information blocking” or the scope of the Security exception.
  • Application to Health IT Developers of Certified Health Information Technology. ONC further changed the definition of “information blocking” to clarify that it applies to health IT developers of certified health information technology, not all health IT developers.

ONC will accept comments on the Interim Final Rule for up to 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register (e.g., January 4, 2021).

MHC is working with health care providers in its community on compliance with the Information Blocking Rule and CMS Interoperability and Patient Access final rule, including providing educational materials such as Information Blocking FAQs, webinars, a template No Information Blocking policy, and a checklist of HIPAA policies providers should consider updating for compliance with the Information Blocking Rule. MHC also offers consulting support services in connection with legal services offered by Melissa Soliz, a partner with Coppersmith Brockelman. Ms. Soliz focuses her national data privacy and access practice on compliance with these new interoperability rules. Please do not hesitate to contact MHC for assistance with this new and developing area.

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