Information blocking provisions will be 'largely common sense,' says ONC’s Rucker

The Department of Health and Human Services’ top health IT official offered some vague hints on Friday about a forthcoming information blocking rule the healthcare industry is eagerly anticipating.

“I think you’ll see the provisions we have are largely common-sense types of things,” National Coordinator Donald Rucker, M.D., told the audience at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s (ONC) annual meeting.

“If you put yourselves in the shoes we have to fill in terms of how would you free up information, I think you would come to something similar,” he added.

Exactly how the agency defines “common sense” remains to be seen.

Hospitals, health IT vendors and payers alike are waiting on the rule, mandated under the 21st Century Cures Act, that will outline exceptions to information blocking. The legislation gave the Office of Inspector General the ability to fine healthcare entities as much as $1 million for each instance of information blocking.

RELATED: All eyes on information blocking as proposed rule heads to OMB

OIG has said it's ready to begin enforcement but is waiting on the definitions from ONC.

That proposed rule has been under review by the Office of Management and Budget since mid-September. Rucker admitted that one big surprise since accepting the appointment in 2016 has been how long it long it takes to push a rule through the administrative hurdles.

“I thought it went a little faster,” he said. He didn’t specify when the data blocking rule would be released.

Rucker also plugged the administration's aversion to micromanaging the private sector, indicating the agency will be “absolutely minimalist” where it can be in order to ensure information is share in a “pro-competitive way.”

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Part of that is shifting the control back to patients. Changing evaluation and management coding, for example, will eliminate boilerplate text in most EHRs that makes it difficult to pull out pertinent information. And it will prompt patients to start asking more questions about their health.

“I think that whole game is going to actually change pretty rapidly,” he said. “So, I would encourage you to think about the new dynamic in provider notes that will be set off in the interplay of Cures and technology.”