Trump administration may push back info blocking rule again due to COVID-19 pandemic

Doctor computer medical records
ONC is looking to push back a November compliance deadline for providers to meet new healthcare interoperability requirements. (Getty/BrianAJackson)

The Trump administration is planning to delay the compliance deadlines for healthcare information blocking and interoperability regulations for a second time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) an interim final rule on September 17 that revises the timelines.

"We’ve had some adjustments to the timing of our rule and the companion CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) rule and we’re monitoring closely the situation in terms of further adjustments," said Don Rucker, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, during CB Insight's Future of Health conference last week.

"All I can say at this point, we’re actively aware of the COVID pandemic and looking at any needed changes," Rucker said.

RELATED: Enforcement of interoperability rules to be relaxed to ease burden on providers

ONC declined to comment on the interim final rule. But the rule implies that the agency will extend dates identified in the information blocking provisions, including the November compliance deadline for providers as well as dates for the Conditions and Maintenance of Certification provisions requiring electronic health record (EHR) platforms to be interoperable.

HHS' information blocking rule, which was finalized in March, requires that electronic health data be made available to patients at no cost and defines exceptions to data blocking.

The information blocking requirements were set to take effect Nov. 2.

RELATED: Here are 6 ways the ONC's new rules for opening health record access will impact the industry

As it stands now, providers  will have to be able to exchange certain types of health information with other providers and their patients by Nov. 2 or face fines for information blocking. As part of the ONC rule, certified health IT developers are required to make available standardized APIs that will aid in patient access to their health information on a smartphone.

As part of the CMS rule, providers have to share admission, discharge and transfer notifications as a condition of participation by the spring of 2021.

HHS already relaxed enforcement of the interoperability rules back in April and extended compliance timelines for some requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some groups have pressured CMS and ONC to delay the rules amid the current health crisis. Payer and provider organizations have complained in the past that the timelines to implement HHS' interoperability regulations are "troubling" and not realistic given the current evolving pandemic.