Impact Insights

Newsflash! Information Blocking Deadline Delayed

Dan Golder


The Information Blocking applicability date for providers has been extended to April 5, 2021.


Summary

On 10/29/20, ONC released an Interim Final Rule with comment period (IFC) that extends certain compliance deadlines relating to “information blocking” that were established in the “ONC Cures Act Final Rule” from May 2020.

Most notably, under the 10/29/20 interim final rule, healthcare providers, health IT developers, health information exchanges, and health information networks will now be “subject to” information blocking starting April 5, 2021 (now called the “applicability date”).

This represents a five-month delay from the original deadline of 11/2/20 that was established in the ONC Cures Act Final Rule.

The date for when the scope of information blocking will be expanded to include all “Electronic Health Information” (EHI) has also been delayed five months to October 6, 2022.

The interim final rule from ONC also makes changes to several of the deadlines to the “Conditions of Certification” for health IT developers.

Key Takeaways

  • This is an “interim final rule” from ONC. By definition, this means the changes and new deadlines are effective immediately after publication in the Federal Register.
  • The biggest near-term change for providers is obviously the five-month extension to April 5, 2021. However, the October 6, 2022, date for EHI should be top of mind as well for health delivery organizations given the scope of changes that will be needed.
  • With the release of this interim final rule, it is unlikely that there will be any further delays to when healthcare providers will be “subject to” information blocking. In fact, ONC strongly emphasizes that it does not anticipate another extension to that information blocking deadline beyond April 5, 2021. (See excerpt below.)

Per ONC in the 10/29/20 interim final rule:

“We believe the additional five months will enable actors to focus on the [COVID-19 public health emergency], provide sufficient additional time to thoroughly read and understand the ONC Cures Act Final Rule, and educate their workforce about information blocking and the exceptions contained in the final rule. However, at this time, we do not believe the applicability date for [information blocking] should extend beyond April 5, 2021. We believe this timeframe appropriately balances the additional flexibility necessary due to the [public health emergency] with ONC’s sense of urgency in addressing information blocking. We emphasized the urgency of addressing information blocking in the ONC Cures Act Final Rule… In addition, we also believe the applicability date should not extend beyond April 5, 2021, because the information blocking provisions do not contain any technical upgrade requirements that necessitate a longer extension.”

Quick Background on “Information Blocking”

For context, the federal government defines “information blocking” as a practice that, except as required by law or specified by HHS as a “reasonable and necessary activity,” is “likely to interfere with access, exchange, or use of electronic health information (EHI).” For the first 18 months, the scope of “EHI” will include – at a minimum – the following data set (referred to as the U.S. Core Data for Interoperability or “USCDI”):

For more information, please see our earlier post detailing aspects of the Information Blocking Final Rule.


To reiterate, per the 10/29/20 interim final rule from ONC, healthcare providers, health IT developers, health information exchanges (HIEs), and health information networks (HINs) will now be “subject to” information blocking starting April 5, 2021.

Use of “Electronic Health Information” (EHI) as the standard for interoperability will now be effective beginning October 6, 2022.


Helpful Links:

21st Century Cures Act Final Rule:

https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2020-05-01/pdf/2020-07419.pdf

Information Blocking Extension of Compliance Dates and Timeframes:

https://www.healthit.gov/cures/sites/default/files/cures/2020-10/ONC_IFC_Extension_of_Applicability_and_Compliance_Dates.pdf