Information Blocking and Health IT Certification Requirements: Compliance dates and timeframes extended in response to COVID-19

By: Cristina N. Hyde, J.D.

Many of our clients have been reaching out in recent weeks with questions regarding the Information Blocking and Health IT Certification requirement more commonly known as “Open Notes”. Originally scheduled to go into effect today, this requirement, as well as many other specific requirements of 21st century Cures Act Final Rule have been delayed.

In recognition of the ongoing urgency caused by COVID-19, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has released an interim final rule extending compliance dates for meeting certain information blocking and certification requirements in the 21st Century Cures Act Final Rule.

In March 2020, the Final Rule presented requirements meant to discourage information blocking, promote patient access to their health information and established new health information technology certification requirements.  In part a response to over-the-top compliance with HIPAA, it requires that patients be provided access to almost all personal health information which is contained in their electronic file, with certain exceptions such as preventing harm or the infeasibility of a request.

The extensions contained in the interim final rule are a response to concerns expressed about the ability of a healthcare system that is already straining to manage the current health care emergency to both meet deadlines and maintain focus on patient care.  Rather than having to divide focus, the new timelines are meant to give “health IT developers and health care providers flexibilities to effectively respond to the public health threats posed by the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”  The information blocking applicability date has been extended to April 5, 2021.  The timeframe for 2015 Edition health IT certification criteria updates has been pushed to December 31, 2022 (except for §170.315(b)(10) – EHI export, which has been extended until December 31, 2023).  You can find an updated table of all enforcement dates and timeframes in last week’s press release from the HHS.

Despite extended deadlines, providers, health IT developers and health information exchanges and networks should continue to familiarize themselves with the ONC’s Final Rule. If you would like assistance reviewing policies for sharing electronic health information or have questions regarding the Final Rule’s requirements, contact us.

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