Some Healthcare Interoperability Rules Delayed Due to COVID

Some Healthcare Interoperability Rules Delayed Due to COVID

In March, MedPage Today published a story outlining two new interoperability rules issued by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Below we report on what has happened since.

In March, the Trump administration issued two final rules related to interoperability of healthcare records, with administration officials noting that making patient health records portable and accessible is especially critical during incidents such as the COVID-19 outbreak. And yet, the outbreak itself has delayed implementation of some of those same rules.

ONC issued a rule implementing the clinical interoperability provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act dealing with electronic health records (EHR), ONC head Don Rucker explained on a March 9 phone call with reporters. “Our rule requires hospitals and doctors to provide software access points — endpoints, if you will — to their [EHR] databases so that patients can download these records to their smartphones,” he said. “This download is entirely at the patient’s choice. It is done using modern security provisions and clear communications and choice about privacy.”

A second rule, issued by CMS, required health plans in Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, CHIP, and on the federal health insurance exchanges to share claims data electronically with patients, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a press release. The CMS rule required the Medicare, Medicaid, and federal health plans to implement apps allowing patients to easily retrieve healthcare claims and other information starting in January 2021, and also require plans to begin sharing patient data with other payers as needed beginning in January 2022.

The ONC rule’s provisions barring the blocking of healthcare information were to become effective on November 2. But because of the coronavirus, the ONC rule’s compliance date for the provisions banning information blocking was moved from the November date to April 5, 2021.

“We are hearing that while there is strong support for advancing patient access and clinician coordination through the provisions in the final rule, stakeholders also must manage the needs being experienced during the current pandemic,” Rucker said in a statement on October 29. “We are providing additional time to allow everyone in the health care ecosystem to focus on COVID-19 response.”

Implementation of the provision requiring developers to release their healthcare application programming interfaces (APIs) — the software tools Rucker referred to that allow different systems to more easily communicat

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