The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) recently published the final Information Blocking Rule. The rule is widely seen as a game-changer that will have far-reaching effects on how ePHI is accessed, exchanged, and used within the healthcare industry. Here are five key points all healthcare providers need to be aware of to ensure compliance and what these new regulations mean for the industry.
There are a ton of common missteps in regards to these regulations.
There is a generalized misunderstanding that the regulations apply to any form of Release of Information, but it does not. The interoperability rule applies to the exchange of information without manual effort. It only applies to items that are in the United States Core Data Elements for Interoperability Version 1. Be sure to check all of the ROI rules on the ONC’s website to ensure that your data meets their criteria.
Despite the rumors, there aren’t any penalties.
In regards to all of the talk about penalties and pre-defined fees, that actually aren’t any. Each instance where a possible rule has been broken is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. What it comes down to is intent; if the instance is not covered by one of the exceptions, then the ONC will evaluate whether or not the healthcare provider purposefully blocked the information and will provide sanctions/recourse appropriately. The good news here is that they are on your side and trying to help you maintain compliance as best they can.
Track your data!!!
It is important to have a mechanism like a content management system to release documents. Make sure to have proper tracking and reporting.
It is also important to have a push, not pull, approach for getting the requests in front of you. It’s inefficient to manually search through requests, so instead, push the information into a work queue to ensure you are meeting all requirements.
Enable two-way communication between you and the patients.
In regards to releasing the patient information, a portal would be a good route to go. Not only does this allow you to provide document(s) digitally, but can also provide two-way interaction between you and the patient. This makes your communications more personalized, conversational, and patient-centric instead of each patient touchpoint being strictly about episodes of care.
Be mindful of third parties and POAs.
Portals for releasing information are meant to be patient-centric and only to be accessed by the patient, based on the interoperability rules. If a request to release information is made by a third-party and/or medical power of attorney (POA), the patient would need to provide them with access to the portal. Based on the interoperability rules, the third party may be charged a reasonable rate to obtain this information, however, there are no set rules yet on what is considered reasonable.