4 Things to Know About the Information Blocking Rule
Jan 30, 20214 Things to Know about the Information Blocking Rule

The Information Blocking Rule is part of the 21st Century Cures Act. This rule prevents health care providers and other actors from blocking or interfering with access to, exchanging, and using electronic health information. The rule will go into effect on April 5, 2021.

Here are four things you need to know about the Information Blocking Rule.

What Is Information Blocking?

Information blocking is a practice or activity that prevents or interferes with access to, exchanging, or using electronic health information. Electronic health information includes Electronic Medical Records (EMRs), Electronic Health Records (EHRs), and other data about patients and their care. 

Information blocking goes beyond policies and practices that block access to data. According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), certain changes to EHR or health IT systems may also constitute information blocking. These include:

  • Implementing health IT in non-standard ways that increase the complexity or burden of data sharing.
  • Implementing health IT in ways that make it difficult or impossible to export complete data sets or transition between health IT systems.
  • Implementing health IT in ways that lead to fraud, waste, and abuse or prevent innovation and advancements in data access, exchange, and use.

Information blocking hinders interoperability, or the ability to exchange information across EHR systems. It can also prevent patients from accessing their data. The Information Blocking Rule prevents health care actors from refusing access to electronic health information. It is a step forward toward data sharing practices that improve patient care.

ONC defines a list of actors who must not engage in information blocking. These actors include health care providers, developers of certified health IT, health information networks, and health information exchanges.

What Does the Information Blocking Rule Require?

The Information Blocking Rule prevents certain health care actors from interfering with the access, exchange, and use of electronic health information. Under this rule, your practice must fulfill requests for electronic health information. When authorized parties request electronic health information, your practice must provide it timely. The rule prevents your practice and other actors from erecting barriers to interoperability.

Providers, patients, and other interested parties can report violations of the Information Blocking rule to ONC. For example, these include patients or providers whose requests for access, exchange, or use of electronic health information were denied or unreasonably delayed. Health care actors who violate the Information Blocking Rule can face fines of up to $1 million.

How Will the Information Blocking Rule Affect My Practice?

The Information Blocking Rule is a step forward toward interoperability. You should prepare your practice and your EHR system for increased data-sharing efforts. The rule prevents you from refusing data requests from authorized parties or interfering with otherwise valid data sharing. Your practice will need to respond to valid data requests timely. You will also need to configure your EHR system to receive data from other providers and health care systems.

You may need to update or customize your EHR system to comply with the Information Blocking Rule. When properly configured, your EHR can ease the burden of responding to data requests. It can also help you integrate data from other providers into your patients’ EMRs.

This rule seeks to encourage interoperability and data sharing. While your practice may need to make some adjustments to comply, the rule should ultimately enhance patient care. By sharing data with your patients’ other providers, your practice will get a more complete picture of your patients’ health and health care needs. This will help you provide higher-quality and higher-value care. By also sharing data with patients, you can engage them in their care, further improving outcomes.

Are There Exceptions to the Information Blocking Rule?

ONC has defined eight exceptions to the information blocking rule. These exceptions give practices a safe harbor to conduct reasonable and necessary activities without violating the information blocking rule. To take advantage of these exceptions, your practice must meet certain conditions. Here are the eight exceptions:

  1. Preventing Harm: Health care providers and other actors may take reasonable and necessary actions to prevent harm to patients or others.
  2. Privacy: Health care providers and other actors may refuse to fulfill certain requests to access, exchange, or use electronic health information to protect the privacy of patients and others.
  3. Security: Health care providers and other actors may take reasonable and necessary actions to protect the security of electronic health information.
  4. Infeasibility: Health care providers and other actors can refuse to fulfill infeasible requests for access, exchange, or use of electronic health information.
  5. Health IT Performance: Health care providers and other actors may make health IT temporarily unavailable or temporarily degrade performance to ensure the long-term, overall performance of health IT.
  6. Content and Manner: Health care providers and other actors may limit the content of electronic health information shared or how it is shared under certain conditions.
  7. Fees: Health care providers and other actors may charge fees to access, exchange, or use electronic health information. These fees may result in a reasonable profit margin.
  8. Licensing: Health care providers and other actors may license interoperability elements for the access, exchange, and use of electronic health information.

How TempDev Can Help

TempDev’s consultants and developers can help you prepare your NextGen EHR and EPM for the Information Blocking Rule. The TempDev team has helped thousands of ambulatory care practices comply with interoperability, MIPS, and health IT reporting requirements.

Call us at 888.TEMP.DEV or contact us here for help complying with the Information Blocking Rule.