Thoughts on the Extended Information Blocking Compliance Dates

SO healthcare moving slowly is no surprise to anyone. But the industry is still headed in the right direction. At its core, the anti-data blocking rules set up the potential for patients to begin to control their own healthcare data. This is fundamental infrastructure supporting the dramatic change (dare I say disruption) that healthcare so desperately needs.

Yesterday the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced an extension of the anti-data blocking requirements to April 5, 2021. This is not ideal.

Yet, as warnings of a third wave of COVID surface above the horizon, it is clear that we need to keep our focus on minimizing the impact to our population as we deal with record-breaking coronavirus cases as we head into flu season.

However, patients still have other non-COVID health needs and there is no reason why companies or staff not tied up in COVID responses should use the delay as a reason to put data blocking work on the back burner. In more ways than ever it is important for patients to have unfettered access to the transfer of their own data. And it turns out that we don’t actually need the government mandate to employ that as a standard. Patients own their data. The longer it takes our industry to enable easy access of their records, the harder it is for patients to be active participants in their healthcare.  The best healthcare is achieved when patients and providers work together – patients need more control over their data to better partner with their care teams.

Ideally, this would have been done in lockstep with the advent of modern technology and the ability to exchange data digitally.  As the use of technology in healthcare has changed from an afterthought to a critical part of a healthcare organization’s strategy, it’s important for health IT leaders to carve the path we need rather than waiting for government mandates. This means engaging in more forward-thinking exercises about what good deployment of technology looks like and truly bringing healthcare up to speed with other industries, like fintech, retail tech, and more.  Continuing to advocate for more data liquidity is a key factor in healthcare being able to take advantage of the opportunity that exists. Obviously the current reality doesn’t heed the ideals (if 2020 has taught us nothing else…) so we must do what we can to actualize the ideal without even being mandated to do so.

A possible 2021 prediction is that we will see many EHR vendors and, potentially, some providers complete the work needed to meet the requirements before April 2021.  Primarily because, with as late as the delay came, it is likely that many were far enough down the path that it only makes sense to continue the necessary work.  It is probably that most vendors and healthcare organizations will choose to release early so that we can start working out and identifying kinks and challenges – it may actually be an opportunity to use an iterative, agile-style approach and help all of us get to the realized value of widespread data sharing in healthcare.

The HHS may have pushed back the time, but our work doesn’t stop here.

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