Senior man sitting at home using digital tablet for video calling. Mature man having online consultation with doctor.
Credit: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

[For an industry insider’s viewpoint on the Cures Act Final Rule, read the McKnight’s guest column by physical therapist and NASL board member Robert “Bob” Latz, PT, DPT, CHCIO.]

As of Oct. 6, long-term care facilities, home health entities and other healthcare-related stakeholders must provide patients with no-cost, easy access to a wider swath of electronic health information (EHI) under the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, or face potential penalties.

Although HIPAA requires that healthcare providers turn over healthcare data when asked by patients, the process has often been fraught with delays, costs to patients and limits on what was shared. Among other provisions, the Cures Act sought to make health information sharing the norm, with ​​the Department of Health and Human Services providing oversight.

Information blocking

The Cures Act Final Rule now expands the definition of EHI to include all electronic Protected Health Information that the patient has access to under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Healthcare providers cannot participate in what is called “information blocking” of patients’ EHI, including stalling release or preventing access to these records, with certain exceptions. Prior to Oct. 6, the information blocking definition was limited to the subset of EHI represented by data elements identified by the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) v1.

Related Articles

It may take a while for the complexities of the new data-sharing environment to be ironed out, with periodic regulatory updates to be expected, Steven Posnack, Deputy National Coordinator for Health IT of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), said in a blog post

Questions answered

To help answer questions about information blocking, the ONC is holding virtual office hours on Oct. 27. It also has published regulatory notes for providers and other healthcare stakeholders to keep in mind, including but not limited to:

  • Information-blocking practices include acts and omissions. For example, failure to report diseases and conditions as required by a state could be an interference with access, exchange or use of EHI under the information-blocking regulations.
  • The information blocking regulations’ exceptions are not solely “one size fits all” and address the facts and circumstances of the situation at hand. For example, some healthcare providers may not yet have adopted certified health information technology.
  • Not all health information that is electronic is considered EHI under the regulatory definition.
  • The information-blocking regulations do not require providers to adopt or use certain technologies or platforms to make EHI available for access, exchange or use.

In addition, the ONC’s information-blocking web page contains links to basic regulatory information, fact sheets and answers to frequently asked questions.

Related articles:

Most nursing homes lack tech capacity to communicate with clinical partners