Massachusetts doctor: End the 'shameful' practice of information blocking

Doctors talking
Information blocking is "completely unacceptable and a huge distraction," writes one independent physician.

Independent physicians face plenty of challenges in an increasingly complex regulatory environment, but one Massachusetts pediatrician is becoming increasingly frustrated with an issue that prevents him from sharing patient information.

Information blocking—when healthcare vendors or organizations knowingly interfere with the exchange of electronic patient information—has become “completely unacceptable and a huge distraction,” wrote Peter Masucci, a pediatrician in Everett, Massachusetts, in an op-ed for STAT.

Masucci, who embraced EHRs 11 years ago, said he told his affiliated medical group that he needs to change his EHR platform to share data with other physicians in the group. He highlighted the findings of a recent Milbank Quarterly report that indicated half of vendors and 25% of health systems routinely engage in information blocking to boost revenue.

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“It’s a shame that health care technology is being manipulated to protect and defend market share instead of being tweaked to enable connectedness across all care sites,” Masucci wrote.

Under the 21st Century Cures Act, the HHS Office of Inspector General can investigate and penalize organizations engaging in information blocking with a civil monetary penalty of up to $1 million. The law also requires the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the HHS Office for Civil Rights to issue guidance on barriers that prevent the trusted exchange of patient data.

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In a meeting with reporters last week, Jeff Coughlin, senior director of federal and state affairs at HIMSS, said the OIG is awaiting that guidance before it begins issuing fines.

“They won’t enforce until there’s clear guidance," he said.

The ONC has emphasized the need to discourage information blocking while pushing to improve interoperability through standards and a recently proposed measurement framework.

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