Healthcare's information blocking conundrum

By Dan Bowman

Both healthcare providers and vendors were blasted in an April report to Congress focusing on who's to blame for a lack of health data interoperability in the industry.

The report was mandated by Congress last December upon passage of the 2015 omnibus appropriations bill, and revealed that efforts to stymie information blocking have been ineffective to date. 

While Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) called out Verona, Wisconsin-based Epic Systems in blasting the lack of EHR interoperability during a congressional hearing in 2014, the report made clear that the problem extends beyond any one vendor.

"A common charge is that some hospitals or health systems engage in information blocking to control referrals and enhance their market dominance," the report noted.

In October, the HIMSS Electronic Health Records Association, in a letter to National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, said that ONC and policy makers may be overstating the problem of information blocking, and "run the risk of overreaching to what appear to be isolated incidents."

The Office of Inspector General warned in October 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.

Healthcare's information blocking conundrum