EHRA to ONC: Don't jump the gun on 'information blocking'

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and policymakers may be overstating the problem of information blocking and "run the risk of overreaching to what appear to be isolated incidents," according to HIMSS' Electronic Health Records Association (EHRA).

In a letter to ONC head Karen DeSalvo, which recently was made public, the EHRA notes that it appreciates the care that ONC took in its April report to Congress regarding interoperability and information blocking. However, EHRA expresses concerns with a number of aspects of the report, including:

  • The mere assessment of a fee for data sharing does not mean that it's cost-prohibitive and thus information blocking
  • Identifying what constitutes information blocking is challenging and very situation-specific
  • Non-standard and variations in connectivity options are not necessarily information blocking
  • There is a difference between anecdotes and true information blocking
  • Not all information blocking is due to vendor or provider behavior; some it is regulatory, which results in unintentional or perceived data blocking

"Overall, although the initial report was excellent given the time available to develop it, we do not believe that the concepts in the report, especially the enumerated 'practices,' are ready for inclusion in legislation," the letter states. "A 'light touch' national framework, emerging out of both public and private sector efforts, to provide guidance on common issues like governance and the use of standards, would support more rapid progress toward our shared interoperability goals."

Information blocking has been recently identified as a major impediment to interoperability, one of the primary goals of EHR implementation. Recent proposed legislation would increase penalties against information blocking. The Office of Inspector General warned earlier this month that EHR subsidy programs that hindered the electronic flow of information could lose their safe harbor protections under the anti-kickback law and subject the parties to civil and criminal penalties.

To learn more:
- here's the letter (.pdf)