October 20, 2022
On October 6, 2022, new federal rules from the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) around data sharing and access went into effect for nearly all health care providers, including home health and hospice agencies. The regulations, known as “information blocking” rules, were required as part of 2016’s 21st Century Cures Act, and are intended to prevent activity by providers, health IT developers, and health information networks (HINs) & health information exchanges (HIEs) that “is likely to interfere with access, exchange, or use of electronic health information (EHI)”.
These rules are part of a broader, years-long policymaking priority to make it easier for patients to access their health-related data, as well as better facilitate seamless data sharing across provider types. For health care providers to engage in practices considered information blocking, they would need to know that such practice is unreasonable and is likely to interfere with access, exchange, or use of EHI.
The first set of information blocking requirements went into effect on April 5, 2021, and defined a penalty structure for information blocking violations related to a smaller, defined set of EHI data elements, namely those that constitute the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) version 1 (see those elements HERE). But as of October, 6th, 2022 (last Thursday) the definition of EHI as it relates to the information blocking rules and penalties has been expanded and is no longer restricted to only those elements from the USCDI v1. EHI is now defined to include all electronic protected health information (ePHI) to the extent that such information would be included in a designated record set (DRS), regardless of whether the records are used or maintained by or for a covered entity as defined by HIPAA (see the definition of a DRS HERE).
In an overview blog describing the new requirements and EHI definition, ONC indicates that it believes most providers should already be very familiar with the ePHI that would be included in a DRS, as it is the same information that has been covered under HIPAA for many years. ONC states that “To put it simply, the same electronic protected health information (ePHI) that an individual has a right to access (and request an amendment to) under the HIPAA Privacy Rule is the same ePHI that information blocking actors can’t ‘block.’”
The new rules are complicated and involve highly technical elements. NAHC will continue to review the implications for our members, but we encourage home health and hospice providers to familiarize themselves with the requirements. Additional proactive steps might also be helpful, including working with your EHR vendor to understand your current technical capabilities related to providing EHI access, reviewing your current practices regarding how you are responding to record requests and in what timeframes, and educating relevant staff on your protocols for responding to EHI requests.
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