ONC: Information Blocking Compliance Extended to April 2021

By Matt Schlossberg
Just days before its original compliance date of Monday, November 2, the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT announced today they are extending the compliance dates for the agency’s information blocking final rule to April 5, 2021, and December 31, 2022.
The interim final rule and comment period was issued by the ONC in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“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,” said Don Rucker, MD, national coordinator for health IT. “ONC is not removing the requirements advancing patient access to their health information that are outlined in the Cures Act Final Rule. Rather, we are providing additional time to allow everyone in the health care ecosystem to focus on COVID-19 response.”
The interim final rule provides the healthcare ecosystem additional flexibility and time to effectively respond to the public health threats posed by the spread of COVID-19.

New Applicability and Compliance Dates/Timeframes & Corresponding Provisions

April 5, 2021
December 31, 2022
One Calendar Year Extension

Information blocking provisions (45 CFR Part 171)
Information Blocking CoC/MoC requirements (§ 170.401)
Assurances CoC/MoC requirements (§ 170.402, except for § 170.402(b)(2) as it relates to § 170.315(b)(10))
API CoC/MoC requirement (§ 170.404(b)(4)) – compliance for current API criteria
Communications CoC/MoC requirements (§ 170.403) (except for § 170.403(b)(1) – where we removed the notice requirement for 2020)

2015 Edition health IT certification criteria updates (except for § 170.315(b)(10) – EHI export, which is extended until December 31, 2023)
New standardized API functionality (§ 170.315(g)(10))

Submission of initial attestations (§ 170.406)
Submission of initial plans and results of real-world testing (§ 170.405(b)(1) and (2))

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services

“Ensuring that patients have seamless, timely, electronic access to their health information regardless of where that information travels will continue to be a top priority for health information professionals,” said Wylecia Wiggs Harris, PhD, CAE, CEO of AHIMA. “The compliance extension allows them additional time to see that their institutions’ policies and procedures are in place to fully enable the access, exchange, and use of electronic health information. We thank ONC for being cognizant of the realities health information professionals are encountering during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The information blocking final rule solidifies the information blocking provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act—and has numerous implications for health information HIM professionals for how they access, exchange, and use data, and bring their organization into compliance with its provisions.
For additional resources from AHIMA to help health information professionals and other stakeholders prepare for implementation of and compliance with the final rule, see the sidebar at the end of this article. Additionally, ONC will host an informational webinar on Monday, November 2 from 3pm-4pm ET. Register for the webinar here.

Additional AHIMA Resources on Information Blocking

Journal of AHIMA: Our October issue featured a special collection of articles on the information blocking and interoperability final rules. To view the collection, click here.

Webinar: AHIMA has provided an on-demand webinar that breaks down the provisions and certification and compliance requirements of the information blocking provisions, presented by Elise Sweeney Anthony, executive director, and Elisabeth Myers, deputy director, office of policy at ONC. To access the webinar, click here.

Matt Schlossberg (matt.schlossberg@ahima.org) is editor of the Journal of AHIMA

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