EHR vendors, provider groups want more details on the definition of information blocking

A group of health IT and provider organizations want federal officials to issue a proposed rule clarifying the definition of information blocking and the subsequent approach from enforcement officials.

Led by Health IT Now, the group of 13 stakeholders, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) and several prominent EHR vendors, recommended that the Department of Health and Human Services clarify its definition of information blocking, which is prohibited under the 21st Century Cures Act.

“We understand that implementing these provisions will require a nuanced approach and believe the best first step for the administration in implementing these provisions is to gain broad stakeholder input,” the groups said in a letter (PDF) to Donald Rucker, M.D., the national coordinator for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson.

RELATED: Former ONC privacy officer: OIG investigators should use HIPAA to crack down on information blocking

Under the law signed by President Barack Obama in December, the Office of Inspector General can investigate and fine companies and providers that engaged in information blocking up to $1 million per violation.

Given the potential enforcement implications, the group proposed a discussion session in September to iron out questions like:

  • What “reasonable” business practices do not constitute information blocking?
  • What constitutes “special effort” in eliminating blocking and promoting interoperability?
  • How should patient access be measured?
  • What constitutes a "complete record"?

Defining information blocking is one of several priorities under ONC’s new administration, although it will have to do so without a dedicated privacy office. The agency plans to eliminate its Chief Privacy Officer with a potential $22 million budget cut in 2018, and instead lean on the Office for Civil Rights for support.

Meanwhile, one doctor has called for an end to the “shameful” practice of information blocking that interferes with patient care. And a prominent health IT researcher blamed information blocking equally on providers, vendors and policymakers.